Rally calling for federal investments in social housing in front of the National Housing Conference

Ottawa, March 18th, 2024 – Less than a month ahead of the federal budget, 200 people took advantage of the presence of the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, Sean Fraser, at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Conference (CMHC), to strongly advocate for a change in direction for the Trudeau government in its housing interventions. During a rally organized at the conference entrance, the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), a Quebec-based housing rights umbrella group, demanded that the investments under the National Housing Strategy, which the government is presenting as an $82-billion plan, be reallocated to social housing to respond much more effectively to the most urgent needs arising from the housing and homelessness crises.

« Tens of thousands of social housing units could be funded each year if federal funding were reserved for them instead of being largely squandered as it is now. The stakes are high, » said Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for the Quebec group. She added that the April 16 budget is an opportunity to make a serious shift in this respect, especially since in her November 21st economic update, the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, promised to reform the Affordable Housing Fund, previously known as the National Housing Co-investment Fund, early in 2024. 

« The federal government is dangling billions of dollars that have too little impact on the supply of housing for the individuals and families who are experiencing the housing crises the hardest, » said Véronique Laflamme. « Loans and co-investment funds are generally not used for social housing projects, whether they are public housing, co-ops or non-profit housing organizations. Yet, the federal government has already figured out how to intervene effectively in this area. Between 1971 and 1991, it allowed the share of social housing to increase from 0.5% to 9.5% of Quebec’s rental housing stock, » she added. In her opinion, by reallocating its investments to truly structuring initiatives, the federal government could help to significantly increase their number again.

According to the latest progress report on the National Housing Strategy released in September 2023 by CMHC, about one-third of the units funded under its two main initiatives, renamed the Affordable Housing Fund and the Apartment Construction Loan Program, could not even be considered affordable even though affordability as defined by CMHC is already too expensive for low- and modest-income households. « Even 56% of the Federal Lands Initiative, which could easily have been reserved for social housing outside the private market, was used for unaffordable housing, » said Catherine Lussier, FRAPRU coordinator. « Surplus public lands already paid for with public funds must be set aside for the public and not-for-profit sector to accelerate the development of social housing, » she said.

FRAPRU believes that there is still time for Canada to change course and significantly increase its investments in social housing, which is the only way to improve the situation on a permanent basis for under-housed households and homeless individuals and families, and progress in implementing the right to housing. The group therefore urges the Minister of Finance to have a clear target for social housing, outside the private market, and to plan its funding for several years. 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. It believes, as do economists at major Canadian banks, that a worrying wealth gap is widening between renters and homeowners in Canada and that reinvestment in social housing would help ease the pressure on lower-income households.

In addition to Quebec housing committees, various Quebec organizations have joined the FRAPRU event, including the Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes (RAPSIM), the Fédération des locataires de HLM du Québec (FLHLMQ), the Refuge de Laval and Travail de rue de Laval (TRIL). This is also the case for Canadian and Ontario organizations such as the National Right to Housing Network, the Canadian Housing & Renewal Association (CHRA) and the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario – ACTO.



Catherine Lussier: 514 231-2309 (cell)

Véronique Laflamme: 418-956-3403 (cell)