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

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Red Deer’s new ‘equity co-ordinator’ will promote tolerance

Andrea Lacoursiere was hired by city with Alberta Human Rights funding

More bridge work this summer in Red Deer’s Coronation Park

The park’s north bridge is being rebuilt to ensure safety

Man badly injured in off-road vehicle collision on Saturday

Incident happened in Mountain View County about 10:50 p.m.

Heat warning in effect for Central Alberta

Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for Central Alberta. Residents in… Continue reading

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent… Continue reading

Banff holds blessing ceremony with Indigenous elders before letting bison roam

BANFF, Alta. — Several Indigenous elders were flown by helicopter into the… Continue reading

Research expedition looks at unseen depths of Labrador Sea ecosystem

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Last summer, a team of scientists returned from… Continue reading

Protesters camped outside Saskatchewan legislature taking province to court

REGINA — Protesters camped outside the Saskatchewan legislature say they are taking… Continue reading

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to… Continue reading

‘City of icebergs:’ Study says 100s of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of… Continue reading

U.S. hits back with WTO challenge against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs

OTTAWA — The United States fired back Monday at the Canadian government’s… Continue reading

Croatia gears up to give heroes’ welcome to World Cup team

ZAGREB, Croatia — Fans are pouring in from throughout the country as… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month