Canada’s National Housing Strategy: Progress to Date

Written by Lauren White

November 29, 2021

What is the National Housing Strategy?

Housing is one of the most critical issues facing Canadians. After more than 20 years of limited funding and attention, the federal government has begun to re-engage with housing policy and funding through the National Housing Strategy (NHS). The NHS was released in 2017 and provides a long-term vision for housing in Canada. Upon initial release, the NHS was a 10-year $40B plan to reduce homelessness and improve the affordability and quality of housing for the most vulnerable Canadians.

In 2019, new investments were announced in Budget 2019, and more than $13 billion was announced through the Fall Economic Statement in 2020 leading to a 10-year $70B plan. Under the NHS, the Minister responsible for the plan is required to report to Parliament on the progress of the NHS initiatives and achievements. The first triennial report was released on May 31, 2021. This blog will look at the initiatives and goals set out under the NHS and its progress to date.

Goals and Funding Targets

The federal government has determined housing as a human right. The goal of the NHS is to maintain a national housing strategy that funds policies and programs that put people first, ensuring every Canadian can access housing that is affordable and meets their needs. The NHS is based on three fundamental principles:

  1. To address the housing needs of the most vulnerable, including women and children fleeing violence, Indigenous peoples, seniors, people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans, recent immigrants (including refugees), racialized groups, LGBTQ2+ communities, and young adults.
  2. To promote community building, by prioritizing housing with public investments in job creation, transit, healthcare, and cultural and recreational infrastructure, while supporting communities to develop and implement local housing solutions.
  3. To encourage partnerships between all levels of government, community housing, co-operative and private sectors, Indigenous governments, and community organizations.

Funding committed through the NHS is lead and delivered by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC). CMHC works with other federal departments and agencies to deliver programs, and in some instances will contract out services to third parties. Under the NHS, the government developed various initiatives to deliver funding and financing to address the wide range of housing challenges across the country. These initiatives can be divided into four main categories: Create new housing supply, modernize existing housing, resources for community housing providers, and innovation & research.

Progress to Date

The NHS first triennial report highlights the work that has been undertaken to address housing needs across the country. Below are key highlights and specific funding goals and targets of each program so far.

Key Highlights

  • As of March 31, 2021, the government has committed $19.6B under the NHS, supporting the creation of 75,600 new housing units and 189,400 repaired housing units.
  • Committed funding will contribute to reducing housing need for more than 249,000 households through the creation of 48,900 new affordable units and affordability support for 195,400 households, and the repair and renewal of 4,700 households as of March 31, 2021.
  • For women and children fleeing violence, $2.9B and over 39,000 units are being committed through various programs, representing 17% of all NHS funding.
  • Under the NHS, $638M is being committed for Indigenous peoples living in urban, rural, and Northern communities, $413M through Reaching Home and $225M through bilaterial agreements and the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.
  • To support affordable and community housing, the NHS is committing to create over 54,100 new affordable and community housing units, support over 396,100 community housing units, and

Funding & Development Progress

Aside from funding and financing the construction and redevelopment of housing units, the NHS aims to continuously explore innovative ways to make housing more affordable and sustainable. Some innovation and research programs include the Research and Planning Fund, Housing Research Awards, Housing Research Scholarship Program, and Housing Needs Data. Funding for the specific initiatives and programs are listed in the table below. Note that the amounts listed are as of December 31, 2020.

Challenges of the NHS

While there is a substantial amount of funding dedicated under the NHS, many housing developers face significant barriers in getting their loans approved and their projects off the ground. Take the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) for example. The NHCF offers low-cost loans for affordable housing projects. To access the loan groups must meet certain terms and come up with approximately two-thirds of the project cost. More than 90 percent of NHCF users are non-profit organizations or lower levels of government that may not have the funds available to meet the financial terms to receive a loan. This was most recently the case in the Region of Peel, where Peel staff claimed they might have to sacrifice 860 of its 2,240 planned affordable housing units if it cannot address the funding gap. According to CMHC, the protocols to receive funding are necessary to manage the risks associated with development projects, but it does leave many non-profit organizations unable to apply for funding if they cannot provide the costs up front or carry the risk.

Cahdco’s Role

Under the NHS, Cahdco has had the opportunity to support numerous affordable housing projects through various NHS initiatives. Most of Cahdco’s development projects have received CMHC Seed Funding, with the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa’s Christ Church Bell’s Corner project under construction, and CCOC’s 159 Forward Ave project underway. Many of our clients have also received CMHC Co-Investment Funding, including CCOC, Youth Services Bureau, MHI Veteran’s House, and the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. CCOC, and King’s Daughters and Sons have received Rental Construction Financing, and MHI Veteran’s House and CCOC have received funding under the Federal Lands Initiative. The Catholic Health Sponsor’s of Ontario and Saint Elizabeth Health have received funding under the CMHC Solutions Lab, and the Ottawa Community Land Trust has received funding under under the CMHC Demonstrations Initiative. Finally, Cahdco had the opportunity to apply for Round 2 Getting Started: Pre-Development Processes of the Housing Supply Challenge.

If your organization is interested in developing affordable and sustainable housing, you can reach out to Cahdco President, Graeme Hussey, at graeme.hussey@ccochousing.org.

Lauren White

Student Intern

November 29, 2021