Canada’s housing plan: A welcome change of course, but far too timid

Montreal, April 16, 2024 – The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), a Quebec-based housing rights group, welcomes some of the measures proposed in Canada’s Housing Plan unveiled Friday, the details of which will be announced in Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget. However, it believes that the Trudeau government is still relying too heavily on the private market to tackle the housing crisis.

FRAPRU’s spokesperson, Véronique Laflamme, explains this half-hearted reaction: « For years, FRAPRU has been calling for a vigorous change of direction by Ottawa in its housing investments, so that they are directed towards the non-profit sector and towards helping individuals and families who are hardest hit by the effects of the crisis. The Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council, two bodies set up by the federal government to monitor the right to adequate housing in Canada, have made recommendations along the same lines. Some of the measures in Canada’s Housing Plan that will be confirmed today make such a shift, but incentives to encourage private contractors to build can only result in housing that is unaffordable in the current context ».

Changes welcomed

FRAPRU welcomes the expected addition of $1 billion to the Affordable Housing Fund in the budget, « to provide greater support for non-profit, cooperative and public housing providers and to meet the needs of those most affected by the housing crisis ». It considers this additional investment even more welcome as it will, among other things, enable the continuation of the Rapid Housing Initiative, which finances the creation of truly affordable permanent housing for vulnerable people ».

FRAPRU is also delighted with the creation of a $1.5 billion Canadian Rent Protection Fund, which will enable the acquisition of existing rental housing. « FRAPRU has been calling for a similar measure for years », Véronique Laflamme reminds us, adding that the planned funds will not be sufficient since contributions rather than loans should be granted to ensure the sustainability and affordability of the non-profit housing thus created.

FRAPRU is finally looking forward to the details of the $1.5 billion Cooperative Housing Program announced in the 2022 budget. Véronique Laflamme appeals: « The housing co-op model that has historically developed in Quebec is based on a mix of incomes, enabling low-income households, among others, to have access to it, thanks to additional financial assistance. The new program, details of which will be unveiled in the summer of 2024, should do just that ».

Too much for private developers

« It’s all well and good to want to build more housing, more quickly, as stated in the Canada Housing Plan, but that doesn’t mean we should build at any rent price, thereby increasing the problem of unaffordability ». It was in these terms that Véronique Laflamme expressed FRAPRU’s disagreement with certain measures in the Plan that largely favor private developers and housing that is largely unaffordable, including the addition of $15 billion to the Low-Cost Housing Loan Program.

The introduction of a new tax deduction measure enabling builders to « launch more projects by increasing their after-tax return on investment », in addition to the elimination of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on new rental apartment projects, regardless of rent prices. « This is an indirect waste of money that would be much more useful for social housing, » says Véronique Laflamme. Finally, FRAPRU is concerned about how the federal government might use what it calls « a historic plan to make public land available for housing ». It fears that this plan will repeat the mistakes of the Federal Land Initiative, inaugurated in February 2019 and which, by December 2023 had enabled the completion of 4,000 housing units, but 57% of which were not even affordable, according to the already elastic federal criterias. It adds that in Quebec, this initiative has so far been used to build only 12 housing units. FRAPRU is calling for public land to be reserved for the non-profit sector.

« The Trudeau government seems to have realized that it needs to do more to promote non-profit housing than it has to date with its National Housing Strategy. However, it needs to go much further and focus its investments there. Social housing remains the only real way to tackle the housing crisis in all its dimensions, including the shortage of apartments, but also their financial inaccessibility, and we must do everything we can to rapidly increase their small share of the rental housing stock in Quebec and Canada, » concludes the FRAPRU spokesperson.

FRAPRU therefore urges the Minister of Finance to have a clear target for social housing, outside the private market. In this regard, FRAPRU supports the Canada-wide Social Housing and Human Rights campaign’s call for the federal government to fund the construction of 500,000 social housing units over 10 years across Canada.

FRAPRU will be analyzing and reacting to the budget to be tabled today. It welcomes possible tax measures aimed at making the very rich contribute more to public funds, and hopes that these funds will make it possible to further combat inequalities by massively financing social housing. The group hopes that other tax measures that disproportionately favor property owners will also be reviewed.


For further informations

Véronique Laflamme: 418 956-3403 (cell)

Catherine Lussier : 514 232-2309 (cell)