Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: People cannot recover from the pandemic without housing action & 3000 units simply does not cut it

On December 8th, 2020, Jenny stood and asked this question:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Mr. Speaker, the pandemic has only amplified existing vulnerabilities of the homeless and those who are precariously housed.

People continue to face skyrocketing rents, ballooning home prices and demovictions, and have increasingly resorted to living in encampments. Vancouver East continues to have the largest encampment in the country as the cold, wet weather is upon us, and we are now grappling with the highest rate of COVID-19 in the city, as well.

The urgency for action is more acute than ever. The last time the importance of housing was backed up with serious action federally was after the Second World War, when hundreds of thousands of affordable supportive housing units were built by the government to make sure soldiers returning from the war had places to live. Now, veterans who served our country increasingly find themselves without roofs over their heads.

Clearly, the Liberals do not feel the sense of urgency to act that housing providers and housing advocates do. While the Liberals have declared that adequate housing is a basic human right, their actions do not come close to matching their words. It took six months into the pandemic for the Liberals to announce the rapid housing initiative, and their promise will only bring 3,000 new units to address the homelessness crisis. When over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year, even before the pandemic made things worse, 3,000 units simply is not going to cut it.

The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, housing providers and advocates are all saying that this is not good enough. In fact, CHRA is calling for the federal government to increase the rapid housing initiative funding by at least $5 billion. They also want to see the program extended until at least 2028.

Communities also noted that the rapid housing initiative announcement does not include any resources for wraparound social supports and services. For those suffering from chronic homelessness, supportive services are essential for their success. They are calling on the federal government to include additional resources to fund wraparound supports so that proper care can be provided to ensure their success.

In Canada, 80% of indigenous people live in urban, rural and northern communities, and they are severely overrepresented in the homeless community. The fact that the announcement did not include a dedicated rapid housing stream for urban, rural and northern indigenous peoples highlights once again how their needs continue to be neglected by the Liberal government.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and CHRA note that when the national housing strategy was announced in 2017, there was nothing included for urban, rural and northern indigenous peoples. Even though the Minister of Housing was explicitly told to create an urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy in his 2019 mandate letter, a year later there is still no strategy.

The time to act is long overdue. The indigenous caucus of the CHRA is demanding the federal government develop a for-indigenous, by-indigenous national housing centre. They want to see an increase in the supply of stable, safe and affordable indigenous housing by 73,000 units. They want accelerated action on indigenous homelessness, along with wraparound services to support indigenous tenants' well-being and long-term success. They want accelerated action on the elimination of indigenous homelessness, and a focus on northern housing.

There must be no more excuses and no more delays. The time to act is now."

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