Affordable Housing Best Investment for Feds

Wellesley Institute

Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

2015 Pre-­Budget Consultation Process

July 31, 2014

Increasing investment in affordable housing is good for the health of families and vulnerable Canadians, helps to build prosperous and equitable communities, and is good for jobs and the economy

Cool Aid's first supportive housing building -- Swift House



Executive summary

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has identified six key themes for the current round of pre­‐budget consultations. An increased federal investment in housing and homelessness, as set out in our recommendations, will advance three of those themes:

  • Supporting families and helping vulnerable Canadians by focusing on health, education and training;
  • Ensuring prosperous and secure communities by providing support for infrastructure;
  • Maximizing the number and types of jobs for Canadians.

The high cost of housing is the single biggest expense for low, moderate and middle‐income Canadians. The lack of affordable housing is the largest component of precarious housing – which remains deep and persistent across Canada. On a personal level, housing is one of the most important determinants of health; and at a community level, an adequate supply of good quality and affordable housing is a key factor in ensuring population health.

The federal government, in response to deep and persistent housing issues across the country, has made certain housing investments – and has quantified the economic impact of those investments. After making a $2 billion, two-­‐year affordable housing investment as part of the 2009 stimulus budget, the federal government reported that the jobs and economic impact of the housing funding produced among the most significant jobs and economic impacts of all its stimulus measures. Jobs were generated directly in the construction trades, and indirectly in a range of other sectors. Income from those jobs was spent in food stores and elsewhere in the local economy (which boosts economic activity), and the workers paid income and other taxes (which raises revenue for the government).

Even as the federal government has made several investments in housing and homelessness since 2006, there has been a decline in overall investments as the government continues to withdraw from its long-­term commitment to affordable housing. The net effect has been a continuing decline in the number of federally-­subsidized homes at a time when housing need is growing in most parts of Canada.

We respectfully recommend that the federal government reverse the ongoing cuts to affordable housing investments, and increase funding for the two major national housing and homelessness programs. The increased investments will benefit individual Canadians and families with more healthy homes; communities and the economy will benefit from more jobs and other social and economic benefits; and, governments will benefit as the cost of housing investments is less than the estimated cost to the government of ongoing homelessness spending.


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