The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for September, 2004
Affordable Housing Crisis in Hastings County
It is hard to get a true sense of the scale of homelessness in rural settings, researchers in Hastings County in Eastern Ontario discovered. But, a collaborative effort between service providers decided to not only get a clear picture of the problem, but also develop a “thinking outside the box” action plan.
To respond to the hidden epidemic, the Housing Working Group was set up in 2003 and an ambitious research program was launched. Findings and recommendations will be released in September.
South Hastings Access to Permanent Housing took the lead in the project receiving funds from HRDC to hire Anne Balding as the project co-ordinator and Scott Henderson as the primary researcher.
The Affordable Housing Research Project (AHRP) was led by a number of local groups including Youth Habilitation Quinte, Hastings County Social Services Department, Canadian Mental Heath Association, South Hastings Access to Permanent Housing, Three Oaks and the Community Advocacy and Legal Centre (CALC) and other local service providers.
Michelle Leering of CALC was the working group chair and told Housing Again that the reaction from the community to its preliminary findings has been extremely positive and they hope to get continuing funding from the federal government to implement the recommendations. “The action plan is innovative and pro-active,” Leering said. “We are anxious to get to work on the year-long plan, which works towards building community solutions to homelessness.”
Researchers surveyed 700 low-income people throughout Hastings County using written surveys, focus groups, kitchen table meetings and a forum. They also met 100 local service providers and held a legal information forum for tenants. Given the number of households in the study area (50,265 according to Statistics Canada 2001) and their income levels, it appears that approximately 7,000 households run the risk of becoming homeless.
One aim of the research project was to set up an Affordable Housing Action Network to stimulate action in the different communities to create more affordable housing options, most especially for the precariously housed or homeless. The network’s vision is "everyone has a right to safe, secure and affordable housing."
Researchers realized that homelessness isn’t just an urban issue and therefore, recommendations were county wide. They proposed establishing task forces in community capacity building, advocacy, and “bricks and mortar.”
Leering said the work group is still absorbing the initial feedback from the final report of the AHRP, and plan to launch the network in the fall 2004. Anyone wishing a copy of the executive summary should contact Leering after October 1 at .
Fontana Promises Affordable Housing a Top Priority
Issue could topple minority government
When Prime Minister Paul Martin put together his new cabinet recently he brought together affordable housing, homelessness, residential construction (CMHC) and aboriginal housing under the National Secretariat for Homelessness and appointed London MP Joe Fontana as minister. Fontana was also handed the labour portfolio. Only time will tell whether the move will result in more affordable housing being built. But, one thing is for sure - the issue of affordable housing could be one that makes, or breaks, Martin’s new minority government.
Fontana isn't ready to discuss specifics and declined to be interviewed. But, his staff promised that Canadians would see results on his watch. And one after another, including senior staffpersons Les Mate from Canada Mortgage and Housing and Gilles Thériault from the secretariat, promised Housing Again they would provide a detailed accounting of the money spent since 1999.
Both Mate and Thériault made the bold assurances that the Liberals have spent $1.1 billion on affordable housing and $1 billion on social housing (CMHC) since 1999. Thériault provided Housing Again with a one-page list of expenditures totalling $753 million for phase I (1999-2003) and $405 million for phase II (2003-2006). Both Mate and Thériault promised to provide more details over the next few weeks.
Housing advocates have noted for sometime that there is a great deal of discrepancy about how much money has actually been spent and how much housing has been built. The confusion mostly comes because the federal government has not provided a public accounting.
During the election, Martin promised an additional $1 billion to $1.5 billion for housing. But, he failed to give particulars other than that the money would be used to “extend and enhance existing vehicles” and “support innovative initiatives developed in consultations with provinces, territories and stakeholder groups.” And no announcements are expected until the budget is tabled.
But, there is an immediate source of cash right under their noses - CMHC generates a huge profit each year (last year more than a half billion), which finds its way into the central bank account rather than being re-invested in affordable housing initiatives. The corporation predicts over $663 million in 2004 rising to $786 million by 2008.
More help could come from other ministers, like Toronto MPs Ken Dryden at social development and John Godfrey in infrastructure and communities, the “new deal” guy. Godfrey has said that the gas tax money promised by the Liberals will start flowing in 2005, and the amount will ramp up to 5 cents a litre - worth $2 billion within five years. This money is to be used by municipalities to rebuild infrastructure like transit, roads and housing – priorities they set themselves. Municipal governments should be pressured to prioritize homelessness and affordable housing on their agendas, which may be a challenge given the neglect of cities’ infrastructures for so long.
And provincial funders need to feel the pressure as well, which is often the excuse used by the federal government when not holding up their end of the bargain.
NDP leader Jack Layton, who campaigned on a promise to spend $2 billion on affordable housing, is instrumental to Martin to keep his government from being dethroned. And the Bloc made a similar pledge, so unless Martin is keen on running again soon, he needs to come through on the housing agenda.
“Affordable housing is the key issue for this government,” Layton said during the election campaign. “Homelessness is a national emergency that will make or break the Liberals.”
One last bit of hope – Canada’s last national housing program, which produced thousands of units of affordable housing, was delivered by a Liberal minority government in 1973. But, with the average lifespan of a minority government being all of 18 months, housing advocates need to act swiftly.
New Book from CUCS Press, August 2004
Finding Room: Options for a Canadian Rental Housing Strategy
Edited by J. David Hulchanski and Michael Shapcott, forward by Mayor David Miller, City of Toronto. The 27 chapters and two dozen contributors all focus on solutions to the toughest challenge in Canada’s housing problem: how to house people with moderate and low incomes in a country where the market mechanism is the main provider and allocator of housing. The book is intended to inform the discussion of policy options for affordable rental housing and will be delivered Shapcott says, to every MP when Parliament opens this fall. Distributed by the University of Toronto Press. .
National Anti-Poverty Organization’s Study on Homelessness
Voices: Women, Poverty and Homelessness in Canada, by Rusty Neal
Under the guidance of NAPO, researcher Marie Jose Dancoste traveled to Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver to interview women living on the street in three languages – English, French and Spanish.Published May 2004.
National Anti-Poverty Organization Web site
Changes at Housing Again
Housing Again Web site planning for major upgrade
The partners behind Housing Again are committed to making a major technical and content upgrade to this Web site.
The nation-wide affordable housing crisis and homelessness disaster has been well-documented and housing figured prominently in the recent federal election. Three of the four parties in the Commons have committed to a progressive and active housing policy. Now, more than ever, there is a critical opportunity for policy-relevant research and effective public information. This makes the Housing Again initiative especially important.
The Housing Again site already has impressive resources. However, the site was developed more than six years ago and urgently requires a technical upgrade. The new site will continue to feature the most-used components of the existing site, including the on-line library, alerts and the who’s-who section.
The National Housing and Homelessness Network is taking on project management, under the direction of Michael Shapcott (a leading housing advocate and policy expert). A steering committee will provide overall coordination.
At this time, Catherine Naismith, Architect, who helped develop and coordinate Housing Again over the past six years is leaving the partnership to focus on establishing heritage conservation districts, working with heritage buildings, and publishing Built Heritage News. Catherine's leadership and contributions to Housing Again were key to ensuring the early and ongoing success of this initiative. We wish her every success in her future work.
Housing Again Web Site
New Writer Joins Housing Again
Housing Again welcomes Anne Marie Aikins as the new writer for this e-bulletin. Anne Marie has worked in the social justice movement for more than twenty years and began writing full-time in 1998. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Macleans, Herizons and others and she currently works as a news reporter for Novae Res Urbis. Anne Marie was the only Canadian recipient in the 2001 V-Day award, which funded her first published book “Authentic Boys/Safer Girls.” She has been under contract with James Lorimer & Co. writing a series of books for preteens with the first on the topic of racism coming out Nov/04. Anne Marie can be reached at or or 416-728-4873.