Add $46 a year per Canadian to housing budget, cut homelessness: report

Spending an extra $46 per Canadian a year on affordable housing could dramatically reduce homelessness, a new research report concludes.

OTTAWA — Spending an extra $46 per Canadian a year on affordable housing could dramatically reduce homelessness, a new research report concludes.

Existing intervention programs can only go so far if those who find a way off the streets or out of shelters can’t afford their own place to live, say researchers from York University and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Their annual State of Homelessness in Canada study was published today.

With a budget surplus on the horizon, it’s time to return to the days when federal cash was directly spent on building those places, said Stephen Gaetz, the director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York and one of the lead authors of the study.

“It’s time to have a conversation — what are we going to do with that surplus?” he said.

“This is one that isn’t going to break the bank. It’s going to help not only end chronic homelessness but it’s going to help many, many, many thousands of Canadians who are at risk of homelessness.”

An estimated 235,000 Canadians a year experience homelessness at a cost to the economy of $7 billion. Despite $2 billion earmarked in federal funding, nationally the numbers still aren’t moving down, the report said.

The main reason behind what seems to be an intractable problem is a 46-per-cent decrease in federal investment in affordable housing over the last 25 years, the report suggested.

Affordable housing is defined as shelter that doesn’t cost more than 30 per cent of a low-income person’s budget.

In 1989, $115 per capita was spent each year on adding to affordable housing stocks. Today, it’s closer to $60 a year, while the Canadian population has risen 30 per cent, the report found.

Put another way, in 1982, there were 20,450 affordable housing units built, while in 2006 there were 4,393, the report said.

Increasing the per-capita spending to at least $106 per Canadian — or $1.7 billion a year in federal funding — would allow for the construction of about 8,800 new units a year.

The money wouldn’t just cover construction.

Researchers are also proposing the creation of housing benefits similar to the existing $100 child care benefit provided by the federal government and tax credits, which would help those at risk of homelessness to hold on to their space.

Those who own homes get $8.6 billion a year in tax and other benefits, the report noted.

“As Canadians, we are spending more money on people who do not need help compared to those in greatest need,” the report says.

“And by not spending on those in greatest need, we are not only creating hardship for many Canadian families, we are creating a considerably larger expense for the Canadian economy.”

While the national numbers on homelessness seem stuck, the report does note success with some specific community programs.

In 2008, the federal government contributed $110 million for a five-year research project to explore effective options to cope with mentally ill people who were homeless.

The At Home/Chez Soi study found that starting with providing housing, and backing that up with support services, was more effective and cost-efficient at getting people off the streets than trying to treat them first.

The federal government has since expanded the program, committing an additional $600 million over five years.

“While there are still some areas that need work — we need more robust solutions for youth homelessness, women fleeing violence and Aboriginal homelessness — we are figuring out solutions on the intervention side,” the report said.

“The one missing piece of the puzzle, however, is affordable housing.”

Just Posted

BILD says not the time for higher permit fees in Red Deer

Construction industry is hard hit by slow economy

Bighorn Country telephone town hall for Red Deer area set for Wednesday

Residents can phone in from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to hear about the project or ask questions

Central Alberta real estate sales follow a familiar pattern

2018 house sale numbers mirror 2017 in central Alberta

Red Deer hospital settles dispute, welcomes neonatal nurse

A dispute over nursing levels at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s emergency… Continue reading

Drumheller-Stettler MLA quits UCP

Rick Strankman to sit as Independent

Lucic, Kassian each score twice to power Oilers in 7-2 win over Sabres

EDMONTON — Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian each scored a pair of… Continue reading

Big Valley family gives back to community

Donates $24,560 to Stettler Health Foundation and Edmonton Stollery Children’s Hospital

Giordano notches three points to lead Flames in 7-1 blowout of Coyotes

CALGARY — Flames captain Mark Giordano celebrated his 800th NHL game in… Continue reading

All-female team out to prove women racers aren’t a gimmick

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Every racing series in the world is full… Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ final season to debut on April 14

NEW YORK — “Game of Thrones” fans, get ready. HBO announced Sunday… Continue reading

Kylie Jenner loses record for most-liked Instagram post

NEW YORK — Kylie Jenner’s birth announcement is no longer the most-liked… Continue reading

Study shows black bears need a variety of salmon species to be healthy

VANCOUVER — Black bears need access to different species of salmon rather… Continue reading

Trade war’s wounded: Companies improvise to dodge cost hikes

WASHINGTON — In Rochester, New York, a maker of furnaces for semiconductor… Continue reading

Most Read