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 March, 2006
The Housing Agenda—Post Election
Former Federal Housing Minister Joe Fontana was two days away from tabling a much awaited 10-year national housing framework with Cabinet when the government fell last December triggering an early election call. Instead, Fontana extended the housing initiatives along with funding for a one-year period, securing programs until the end of 2006. The Liberals, however, failed to win the election and now it is up to the Conservatives to follow through, or not, on the housing agenda.
Soon after the election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley as the minister responsible for the newly re-organized Department of Human Resources and Social Development, which includes responsibility for CMHC. As Housing Minister, Finley has not made any public statements about her plans for a national housing framework.
Raising the Roof Board President Sean Goetz-Gadon sat down with Housing Again to discuss the impact of the election results on the housing agenda.
“In the short-term, the housing programs will continue and there should be no immediate impact as a result of the election,” he said. “In the long-term, we really aren’t clear, but there appears to be support for the existing initiatives and willingness to build on those initiatives.”
“All four major parties elected to the House of Commons have solid housing platforms,” said Goetz-Gadon, “so there would appear to be the political will for an ongoing federal presence in affordable housing. This presence is essential as it will help lever affordable housing support from the provinces and territories.”
In the U.S. after the Bush Administration was elected, American housing advocates were concerned that interest in the housing agenda would wane. That hasn’t happened, Goetz-Gadon said. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness now administrates a 10 year plan to end chronic homelessness with an annual budget of $4 billion.
“There is increasing confidence within the community that we can find solutions to homelessness. There is an increasing willingness from the private sector to get involved. Making the case for investments in new affordable housing to the new Conservative government isn’t about charity—it’s about the role affordable housing plays in contributing to the economic wellbeing of the country,” Goetz-Gadon said.
During the election campaign, Harper released a plan to encourage the construction of new affordable housing saying the Conservative government would “work with the provinces and municipalities to develop tax incentives for private-sector builders so that low-income city dwellers will have improved access to affordable housing.”
Beginning in 2007-08, Harper said the government would set aside, on an “experimental” basis, $200-million annually in the form of federal tax credits, administered by CMHC, to encourage developers to build or refurbish affordable rental units. Harper defines affordable units as those in which at least 40 per cent of the occupants earn less than 60 per cent of the local median income. A short backgrounder on the issue said the funding would “supplement existing programs.”
“These are all good things provided these initiatives help those Canadians most in need and do not replace the existing housing and homeless programs that are still rolling out across the country,” said Goetz-Gadon.
“In the weeks and months ahead it is essential that housing groups from across the country make known the importance of the federal government remaining actively involved in affordable housing and homeless programs”, said Goetz-Gadon.
He concluded by noting “a national affordable housing strategy is essential to addressing the needs of the 1.7 million Canadian families who cannot afford their housing costs or live in inadequate housing conditions.”
Celebrating Outstanding Work with Homeless Youth
In the first year of Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation, three winners are being recognized for their outstanding work with homeless youth. Eva’s Initiatives received 46 applications from organizations working with homeless youth in ten provinces and territories. On April 29, one of this year’s winners will be celebrated in Vancouver—the Broadway Youth Resource Centre (BYRC) which works with moderate-risk youth ages 12 to 24 and their families. Operated by Pacific Community Resources, an award winning, not-for-profit society serving Lower Mainland communities since 1984, BYRC is an integrated centre offering counselling, support services, and life skills education. Opened in 1999, BYRC is a grassroots collaboration between nine social service agencies, three levels of government, a university and a college. This multi-agency model provides a continuum of services to at-risk youth through a storefront location. At the core of BYRC is a drop-in Resource Room, accessible to all, which provides an opportunity for staff to begin a dialogue with transient youth who walk into the centre. Youth have access to free computers, phones, fax machines, workshops, activities, celebrations, employment and housing information, medical services, and food. The approach at BYRC is to combine principles of community development with a population health approach, with the youth encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives and environments. Support services and ‘fun’ activities are geared to promote physical, emotional and psychological health. Spiritual and cultural well-being is addressed through weekly Aboriginal programming, talking circles and ceremonies.BYRC is actively involved in the local community, bringing together at-risk youth, the Vancouver Police Department, and Aboriginal youth serving agencies; involving youth in a street ‘cleanup’ in nearby laneways and streets; partnering with a local business and community group and the City of Vancouver to open a public park behind the resource centre; and creating opportunities for youth to volunteer at local events such as the 2005 Gathering Voices Aboriginal Youth Conference. In 2005, BYRC was a leader in initiating a youth driven arts and media gallery in Vancouver, which led to mentoring relationships between the youth and professional artists.BYRC also houses a youth employment program that pairs at-risk youth with employers in the construction trades to create meaningful work experiences. A future direction for BYRC is to rebuild the centre to incorporate transitional housing for youth into the facility. http://www.pcrs.ca/Content/Program%20Pages/Youth%20Services/BYRC/BYRC%20Home.asp As part of its National Initiative Program, Eva’s Initiatives launched its first Innovation Awards with the generous support of CIBC, to recognize the incredible work being done by organizations across Canada in assisting homeless youth. Granted to three organizations that demonstrate innovation in delivering services to homeless youth; successfully use partnerships to develop, implement or operate services; deliver services that help youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to achieve greater self sufficiency and reduce their chances of experiencing homelessness in the future; offer services that integrate two or more of the following: housing, education, vocational training, employment, health and addictions supports,life skills, or other interventions aimed at assisting homeless and at-risk youth to become self-sufficient. In the coming issues of Housing Again, the other two winners, Mères et Monde in Québec City and SKETCH in Toronto, as well as the finalists will be profiled. Each winning organization receives a prize of $3,000, presented at an awards ceremony in their community. www.evasinitiatives.com/initiative.htm
Newsletter Profiles Innovative Work with Homeless Youth
In January, Raising the Roof launched a $1.2 million, three-year project, called Youthworks, aimed at supporting, and promoting programs and approaches that best serve homeless youth and youth at risk across Canada. In the first phase of this project, Youthworks will provide funding to three agencies doing innovative work in this sector. These agencies are the Back Door in Calgary, Choices for Youth in St. John’s and Eva’s Phoenix in Toronto.
The goal of the project is to track the experiences of the approximately 500 young people in these programs to determine what is working and what more can be done to help them succeed. In learning from their experiences and sharing this knowledge with a wider audience Youthworks hopes to positively influence public attitudes and public policy in a way that will result in more effective programs for homeless youth all across Canada.
Over the next three years, the Youthworks project will share the experiences of these young people and other youth at risk, in these pages, in a new newsletter set to launch in July, on Raising the Roof’s Shared Learnings Web site and at special events and regional conferences sponsored by Raising the Roof.
In addition, in partnership with Raising the Roof, Housing Again will profile other agencies across Canada doing important and innovative work to help homeless youth succeed.
Strengthening Cross Canada Linkages
On March 31, Campaign 2000’s project, “Strengthening Cross Canada Linkages on Social Inclusion: Focus on Child and Family Poverty 2004-2006,” comes to an end.
During March, regional partners will be holding their second, and final, regional forums in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. The forums will focus on a review of strategies to address the complex issues of child and family poverty in the current context, strengthening networks of coalition partners regionally and across Canada and determining what is needed to sustain these networks. If interested in attending, contact Elizabeth Ablett, at .
Affordable Housing Advocates Critical of BC Budget
BC Non-Profit Housing Association Executive Director Alice Sundberg said the recent budget by the provincial government provided “no new hope for balanced funding for a full range of housing options.” While Finance Minister Carole Taylor dubbed this a “children's budget” it did not include any dollars for affordable family rental housing, a key element in a stable and healthy childhood, Sundberg said. http://www.bcnpha.bc.ca/pages/BudgetFeb06.htm
World Urban Forum III
Registration is now open for the third session of the World Urban Forum (WUFIII) in Vancouver from 19–23 June 2006. The main theme of this session is “Our Future: Sustainable Cities – Turning Ideas into Action” with the following sub-themes: urban growth and the environment; partnership and finance; and social inclusion and cohesion including affordable housing. The World Urban Forum is a biennial gathering that is attended by a wide range of partners, from non-governmental and community-based organizations, urban professionals, academics, to governments, local authorities and national and international associations of local governments.
In 2004, more than 4,400 people attended the WUFII in Barcelona and 6,000 are expected to arrive in Vancouver. There is no cost to register; however, those hoping to participate must register ahead of time.
The World Youth Forum will also be held the week before, 16-18 June 2006. It will bring together about 300 youth leaders from around the world and give young people a platform to air their views, concerns and ideas for the future, and will showcase youth-led projects and best practices.
To register: http://hq.unhabitat.org/wuf/2006/registration.asp