National Response Needed to Protect Canadians from Losing Housing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many constituents have written to me with very urgent concerns and requests about keeping safely and stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people in Canada are facing a debilitating loss of income during COVID-19, and those who already were facing financial stability or who were already at risk of becoming homeless even prior to the emergence of this pandemic are experiencing heightened fear and anxiety. I have even heard from constituents who have received a notice of rent increase who are extremely distressed.

Given these factors, and the existing crisis in homelessness in our community and across the country: We need to immediately house homeless persons. We must prevent any increase in people becoming homeless. I am calling on all levels of government as they must work together for a national approach to protect Canadians.

To protect renters, we need a nation wide moratorium on all evictions, and a temporary rent freeze period to protect renters during this precarious time.

For landlords who face trouble paying their mortgage or who aren’t able to collect rents, Canada’s big banks and VanCity Credit Union have offered mortgage deferral payments for up to six months. The federal government needs to ensure that the banks make good on this commitment.

Below is the text of the open letter that I sent on March 21 to bring these urgent issues and calls to the federal government, and to urge that they work with all levels of government for a national approach to making sure that – especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic - everyone has a safe place to call home.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Hon. Ahmed Hussen
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

March 21, 2020

Open Letter – RE: National Response Needed to Protect Canadians from Losing Housing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Minister Hussen,

I am writing to request urgent, coordinated actions from all levels of government to protect Canadians from losing their housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We live in unprecedented times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is having far reaching repercussions for Canadians across the country. Federal and provincial health authorities have ordered social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the virus, and many have been requested to self-quarantine or self-isolate to support the recommendations from health authorities for social distancing.

As you know, many Canadians are facing a debilitating loss of income during this pandemic. Workers who are ill or have to be in quarantine cannot go to work. Working families who now need to provide care for their children and elderly parents as schools and community facilities close are not able to work. Even for workers who are able to work, the toll that the pandemic is having across industries, including transportation, tourism, hospitality, entertainment, education, and many others, mean that workers are being laid off or employers are not able to provide shifts. Business owners are losing business as their businesses are ordered to close or are not patronized. Artists, gig workers and freelance workers are also finding themselves without work and income.

This is a situation that no way could have predicted and prepared for, and I’m sure you will agree with me that no one should lose their housing, a basic human right, during these times. From a public health perspective, if Canadians are to follow directives from the health authorities to practice social distancing and self-isolation, they must have a home to quarantine in. Workers who are sick cannot feel pressured to continue working and risking infecting others for free of losing their income and housing.

Given the homeless crisis that already exist in Canada, not only do we need to have measures to properly house those without a place call home, we must also do everything we can to prevent an increase in the homeless population.  To ensure that no one is left behind in these dire times, all levels of government must work together to ensure a national approach is in place to protect Canadians.

I know that recent announcements from the Federal government have been made so that workers and families will be be provided some financial support during this time.  However, the money may not come in time to save renters and home owners from evictions or mortgage defaults. With the housing crisis in Canada, many Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, and even one missed paycheque could mean someone will lose their home.

To protect renters, it is essential a nation wide moratorium on all evictions is in place  during the pandemic. As well, a temporary rent freeze period also needs to be imposed to protect renters from price-gauging during these precarious times.  Already, I have constituents who have just received a rent increase notice and are extremely distressed by prospect of having to find alternate housing at this time.

Aside from putting in place a national moratorium on evictions and rent increases, some housing advocates are also calling for residential tenancy branch hearing be delayed at this time.  In addition, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should also immediately provide a pool of capital to existing or new rent banks across the country so that those who can’t make the rent because of falling incomes or illness don’t lose their housing.

For landlords who may not be able to make mortgage payments if they are unable to collect rent from their tenants, or for homeowners who have suffered other loses of income, I note that Canada's six big banks and Vancity City Credit Union have offered mortgage deferral payments for up to 6 months. It's essential that the federal government step in to ensure that the banks make good on this commitment and that measures are in place to allow everyone, (renters, homeowners and landlords) to have a chance to recover economically once the pandemic is over.

While some cities and provinces have already taken some of these measures to protect and help their populations during these unprecedented times while others have not, in the face of this pandemic, I believe it is essential that there is a national approach to this critical issue.  We cannot wait until Canadians are losing their homes to take action, nor is this the time to try to pass the responsibility of protecting renters and homeowners from one jurisdiction to another. All level of government has a part to play to ensure that no one loses their housing during the pandemic. Urgent federal leadership to coordinate these efforts with our provincial and territorial leaders is necessary to ensure a comprehensive and national approach is in place to protect all Canadians.  I urge you to act now.


Jenny Kwan
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Housing


The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan


Latest posts

Urgent Action Needed on Strathcona Park and other Homeless Encampments - A Joint Call for Action

Urgent action is needed to address the growing homelessness crisis, yet the federal government continues to drag their feet on this issue.

Numbers don’t lie. BC only got 0.5% of funds from finalized agreements through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund. Only two applications were finalized. It was absolutely shocking to see the numbers. The truth is, though, we already suspected that BC was not getting the kind of resources that we need to support and address our homelessness crisis.

Alberta and Quebec have been shut out of the fund altogether, while Ontario has received 94% of the nearly $1.5 billion so far.

To learn more about these figures, please read Dan Fumano's recent coverage of this important story in the Vancouver Sun.

Applying Biometrics Exemptions during COVID-19 Pandemic

August 7, 2020

Sent to:

Ms. Catrina Tapley
Deputy Minister, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada



Dear Deputy Minister Catrina Tapley,

Following the emergency Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) meeting, I am writing to follow up with the issue of delays for individuals to complete their biometrics due to COVID-19. I raised this question directly to your attention during the June 17, 2020 emergency meeting of the CIMM Committee and have also raised this in writing to the Minister.

My office has received a significant amount of email from Vancouver East constituents and from people across the country whose immigration applications have been impeded because they have been unable to complete their biometrics. Given the ongoing impact of COVID-
19, there simply is no timeline or certainty as to when an individual would be able to have their biometrics completed. While I am appreciative of the fact that IRCC has extended the deadline to give biometrics and that IRCC will not close or refuse any application in progress, however, it remains that those unable to obtain their biometrics are in effect simply stuck in the system. This in turn means that their lives are effectively held in limbo.

Cost-sharing Plan with B.C. Provincial and Municipal Government Urgently Needed to Address Homelessness Crisis

July 29, 2020

Sent to: 

The Honourable Ahmed Hussen
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development



Minister Hussen,

I am writing urgently with regard to the need for the federal government to commit to working with the non-profits, provincial and municipal governments to address the housing and homelessness crisis, especially in light of a pandemic that has gripped the country and devastated the livelihoods of many Canadians.

The homelessness crisis is not only an affront to human rights, but also poses an enormous national public health risk. This puts the individuals and the communities they live in at risk. Despite the indisputable importance of housing, I am deeply concerned that your government’s National Housing Strategy (NHS) is woefully inadequate.

Based on the response to my order paper question submitted February 4th, 2020, it seems the largest component of the NHS, the National Housing Co-investment Fund (NHCF), has fallen short of expectations. I was shocked to learn that only 23 of 432 of submissions have finalized funding agreements. Even more troubling was the lack of funding outside of Ontario. Among these applications, over 50% of the finalized agreements were from Ontario and over 91% of the $1.47 billion in these agreements went to a single application in the City of Toronto.

Are you ready to take action?

Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates