Repurposed Federal Government Buildings—Housing and HomelessnessPublished on 18 October 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Minister Foote, first of all, I want to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Public Services and Procurement and welcome you.
Minister, as you know, I’m a senator from British Columbia, and housing and homelessness have been top issues in my province, especially in the last year. In Vancouver alone, we count more than 2,000 homeless people and just under 1,000 living on the streets. Unfortunately, in Vancouver, because of house prices and the cost of living, those numbers are increasing.
My question to you is with regard to affordable housing. In your mandate letter, it reads:
Work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to conduct an inventory of all available federal lands and buildings that could be repurposed for affordable housing in communities.
Can you please tell this chamber if your government has conducted an inventory of the federal buildings? If so, are any of those buildings repurposed for affordable housing?
Hon. Judy Foote, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Services and Procurement: Thank you for that question. That is of great interest to me, and I’ve been working closely with my colleague Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. He is responsible for homelessness and social housing.
We have conducted an inventory. We have worked very closely with Minister Duclos to make him aware of the property the government owns and looking at how that can be repurposed, and obviously some can and some can’t. We’re working with him in terms of what it is we need to accomplish throughout the country with respect to responding to his mandate letter, and of course part of my mandate crosses his as well. We’re working very closely to make sure that any buildings that can be repurposed will be.
Senator Jaffer: Minister, I come from a province where we have homelessness, but the situation for Aboriginal people in my province is dire. With the focus that the Prime Minister and the cabinet and your government have to empower Aboriginal people, are you looking at any of those buildings being repurposed, especially for Aboriginal housing?
I’m more interested if you are looking for young people, because you know in Vancouver it is really sad. We have the most beautiful city in the world, but we have a sad situation where many of our Aboriginal young people are on the streets. Are you looking at that?
Ms. Foote: Thank you for the question. Yes, we are. It’s important to recognize that homelessness knows no age. We are, with Minister Duclos, being very cognizant of the need throughout the country, recognizing what is happening in Vancouver but as well in the larger cities. We are working to make sure we put in place a program through his department that responds to the need inasmuch as it is possible for us to do so.