As part of the National Housing Collaborative (NHC), United Ways across the country are celebrating the announcement of the new National Housing Strategy (NHS).
“We applaud the Federal Government in launching the first ever National Housing Strategy. This is a monumental step towards ending homelessness for all Canadians. Housing is a human right and this strategy recognizes the importance of housing in ending homelessness and returning dignity to those living on the streets,” says Danalee Baker, Executive Director of United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo.
This strategy represents a big advocacy win for the national movement and the NHC – an alliance of non-profit and private housing associations and major foundations – who proposed four major pillars for government action that were adopted in the recently announced strategy:
- Adopt a national goal to end homelessness within 10 years – and launch a pan-Canadian initiative to make it happen. The NHS is oriented around a rights-based approach to ensure housing for all Canadians.
- Develop a national housing benefit that provides direct financial assistance to renters, moving households out of poverty and providing them with more choice and autonomy. There is a commitment to reinvest in the existing social housing stock and to continue rent subsidies for low-income tenants.
- Maintain and increase the supply of rental housing that is affordable across the country through innovative financing and equity tools. There is a commitment to reinvest in the existing social housing stock and to continue rent subsidies for low-income tenants. Local developers and landlords will play a key role in increasing the number of safe and clean rental properties through densification.
- Provide leadership and resources to strengthen and renew our existing social housing to ensure it remains physically sound and financially viable. While not of a scale to address the full need, the housing benefit announced as part of the NHS involves a significant investment of dollars. Our local not-for-profit partners, including ASK Wellness, Interior Community Services, Elizabeth Fry, Canadian Mental Health Association and the John Howard Society, will be on the front-lines supporting those in need.
As attention shifts to implementation, it is clear there is still much work to be done. While the announcement sets out some very clear markers, and the investments made in the 2017-18 federal budget are significant, many details have yet to be determined including negotiations with provinces and territories. Also critical to the implementation of the National Housing Strategy are the provisions of the necessary supports vulnerable individuals need to succeed, including access to counselling, employment, outreach services and healthcare.
“Housing is so much more than four walls around us; it is security, safety, belonging and stability. In order to move forward from the many challenges individuals in our community are facing including addiction, mental health and trauma, they need a place to call home where they can be protected from harm and have some peace,” says Baker.
“United Way is committed to a community with affordable, appropriate and safe housing for all.”