Reports / Articles

Summer 2001

How to turn promises 
into housing for all!

Federal, provincial and territorial housing ministers made an important promise on August 16, 2001, at their annual summit. They promised to sign-off on a new national housing program at a special meeting in November in Quebec City. And federal housing minister Alfonso Gagliano promised to start spending $170 million annually over four years on new housing “as soon as possible” after that. After years of neglect and almost $2.5 billion in housing cuts by senior levels of government, these promises are welcome news for the hundreds of thousands who will experience the homeless disaster this year and the millions trapped in the nation-wide rental housing crisis.

Effective political pressure from local, provincial and national groups and individuals helped to win these promises. But we’ve got to turn up the heat so politicians will honour their words.  Here’s what needs to be done:

·        federal, provincial and territorial officials have to finish negotiations on a new national housing program by November.

·        the federal government has to immediately start flowing its promised funding of $170 annually over four years.

·        the provinces and territories have to match the federal dollars with new money, not accounting tricks such as claiming credit for old money that has already been spent (as Ontario wants to do).

·        the money has to be targeted for social housing (non-profit and co-op housing) for low, moderate and middle-income tenant households, not thrown away on luxury units built by private developers.

·        Most important of all, federal, provincial and territorial governments have to get the message that $170 million annually is only a down-payment on a fully-funded national housing program. Ottawa needs to spend about $2 billion annually on new housing, with another $2 billion from the provinces and territories. This target is called the One Percent Solution and is supported by many national, provincial and local groups. The promises made in London amount to less 10% of this goal.

Canada can take the first step towards a fully-funded national housing plan this fall

Federal, provincial and territorial governments know that Canadians are concerned about the nation-wide housing crisis and homelessness disaster. 80% of Canadians say that “the number of homeless in Canada is increasing a lot”, according to the latest annual poll by Environics for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The poll reports that 79% of Canadians disagree with the statement that “organizations like foodbanks and temporary shelters are sufficient to handle the problem of homelessness”. A total of 67% agree that: “Governments should spend more on preventing homelessness, even if this money must come out of other areas or possibly from increased taxes”. Politicians know that Canadians want action on housing. Now it’s time to turn up the heat!

Here are some practical tips for action:

1

Write, fax, e-mail or phone your federal and provincial elected representatives. Tell them that you are concerned about the nation-wide housing crisis. Tell them that you support a fully-funded national housing program. Tell them what needs to be done – turn page over to include the main points. Ask your representative to pass along your concerns to senior government ministers. Make sure to ask for a response in writing to your concerns.

2

Send a copy of your letter to your provincial premier and the federal prime minister. You can find contact information for politicians in the blue pages of your local phone directory or at government Web sites on the Internet. Politicians do pay attention to letters. If you’ve written before, then write again. If you don’t like the reply that you receive, write again to demand a proper response.

3

Make housing and homelessness a visible issue in your community. Talk to people in your workplace, faith community, school, community centre or shopping mall. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or encourage prominent people in your community to write an op-ed piece. Call a radio or television phone-in program. Point to the issues in your area, and call for a clear solution.

4

Join with others in a local housing, homelessness or social justice group. There is strength in numbers. Plan a community forum or public action. There are a growing number of local groups that are joining together across regions and provinces. Many groups are already planning actions in the campaign for a fully-funded national housing program. Many municipalities have become strong partners. Enlist the support of local officials. The National Housing and Homelessness Network knits together committed advocates from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

For more information, contact TDRC (the secretariat for the National Housing and Homelessness Network) at tdrc@tdrc.net

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