Hon. Art Eggleton:
Welcome, minister. I’d like to begin by commending you and your government for the introduction of the National Housing Strategy. This is something Canada has required for some time, and until your announcement we were the only G7 nation without one.
There are a number of policies in this strategy that, if implemented as promised, will change the lives of a great number of Canadians currently living in poverty. One such policy is the Canada Housing Benefit. This is an idea that has my full support. An affordable housing benefit will provide Canadian families in need with an average of $2,500 a year to put toward their housing costs. It will also provide families with the option of moving out of dedicated social housing, where poverty is quite often concentrated.
My concern, however, is that $2,500 a year will not be enough in increasingly expensive housing markets like Toronto and Vancouver. Moreover, this benefit is not being rolled out until 2020.
Therefore, my question is twofold: Will the Canada Housing Benefit take into consideration cost variations in the housing markets across the country, and why the wait in implementing this important policy?
Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: This is an issue that is more relevant to my department. Thank you for the question. You haven’t said it, but as you know, this strategy has been long awaited by the partners and the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. For many years they have been waiting for the Canadian government to get back to this file, because we know that housing is very much the cornerstone of community development, which allows families to live well.
You also know that not only is this strategy the start of the most ambitious federal demonstration of partnership and leadership in 50 years, but it is going to extend for the next 10 years, until 2028. You also know that the main components are the right to housing as a human right in order to look after our most vulnerable citizens and also the matter of supporting social and public housing. Social housing units have been decaying slowly over the years and have made 400,000 households anxious and fearful of losing their homes and finding themselves on the streets. The strategy reassures these 400,000 Canadians with a long-term commitment to support their housing and homes for the long term.
Third, there is a very important co-investment fund that will make it possible for the federal government to be a reliable, strong and proud partner for the long term.
Finally, as you said, senator, the Canada Housing Benefit is the first-ever housing benefit at the national level.
The timeline is for 2020 to start that benefit. We want this to be anchored and co-developed with provinces and territories. Some of them have benefits that look like the Canada Housing Benefit, but the support of the federal government will be useful in building more support for our vulnerable Canadians. Also, there are provinces and territories where such a benefit is currently lacking.
We are going to work very hard over the next two years so that this starts in 2020.
Why an average of $2,500? This is an average. The actual benefit will vary across communities, cities and localities, depending, as you said, on prices and conditions. It will also be possible to top up missing supports in various contexts where support is already provided through in-kind housing benefits.