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For immediate release                                                                                       
September 30, 2002

Throne Speech 2002:

Time to start building new housing!

“We can start building the housing and services tomorrow, if the federal government would make the commitment today”

With winter fast approaching, the federal government needs to quickly turn its promises in today’s Throne Speech for more affordable housing and more money for homeless services into a fully-funded national housing program. “We can start building the housing and providing the services tomorrow, if the federal government would only make the commitment today,” says Michael Shapcott, co-chair of the National Housing and Homelessness Network. In today’s speech, the federal government has promised to increase its commitment to desperately needed new affordable housing and to extend the Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI), the federal homelessness strategy that was announced in 1999 and due to expire this year.

In November of 2001, the federal government promised to spend $680 million over five years on affordable housing. The National Housing and Homelessness Network says spending should be ramped up to $2 billion annually for a comprehensive national housing program. The NHHN plan, called the One Percent Solution, would fund 25,000 new social housing units annually, and would also provide increased funds for rehabilitation of substandard housing, rent supplements for low-income households, supportive housing and shelter and services for the homeless.

“Community-based housing providers and groups that work with the homeless in every part of Canada are overwhelmed with the huge and growing housing crisis and homelessness disaster,” says Shapcott. “We’re glad that the federal government has recognized the need for action in today’s Throne Speech, but there should be no delay in flowing the funding. Housing projects and services are ready to go. The Throne Speech recognizes that Aboriginal people living in cities are bearing a big burden when it comes to housing and homelessness. Aboriginal housing providers already manage more than 10,000 housing units across the country. New housing for Aboriginals needs to be owned and managed by Aboriginal groups.”  

Here are the specific words from today's federal Throne Speech on housing and homelessness:

"[The government] will extend its investments in affordable housing for those whose needs are greatest, particularly in those Canadians
cities where the problem is most acute. It will extend the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative to provide communities with the tools to plan and implement local strategies to help reduce homelessness. In a number of cities, poverty is disproportionately concentrated among Aboriginal people. The government will work with interested provinces to expand on existing pilot programs to meet the needs of Aboriginal people living in cities."

This is the most lengthy reference to housing and homelessness in any recent Throne Speech. These speeches, which set out the government's agenda at the start of a legislative session, usually don't contain much in the way of specifics.

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