DSB supports 10 recommendations for multi-sector approach to housing crisis

AUTHOR:Michael Erskine
January 31, 2024

ESPANOLA—The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) has thrown its support behind the 10 recommendations of a National Housing Accord: A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report was formulated through a partnership of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), Real Property Association of Canada (REALPAC) and the Smart Property Institute. Most of the accord aims at the federal government stepping into the fray.

The report notes that the housing crisis in Canada has reached a critical level, with rapidly increasing rents and a shortage of affordable units that has resulted in vulnerable populations being “disproportionately impacted.”

DSB staff informed the board that the report outlines a plan to restore affordability, protect Canada’s most vulnerable and build at least two million new affordable and market rental units by 2030.

To meet that goal, the National Housing Accord has outlined 10 recommendations “to address housing affordability, meet the needs of the increasing population, create jobs and play a critical role in ending homelessness.” 

Those 10 recommendations are led off with a proposed creation of a coordinated plan with all three orders of government and create an industrial strategy led by a roundtable of public and private builders, the non-profit housing sector, Indigenous housing experts, investors and labour. The federal plan should include targets and accountability measures. The plan should include enhanced data collection, more robust and frequent population forecasts and better research to understand Canada’s housing system. The plan should also include a blueprint to fund deeply affordable housing, co-operative housing and supportive housing, along with seniors housing and student residences and double the relative share of non-market community housing.

Next up is a recommendation that the federal government should help create a national workforce and immigration strategy on housing, including construction trades and other employment classes related to housing production.

Thirdly, the accord recommends that the federal government should help reform CMHC fees and the federal tax system, including changes to capital cost provisions and eliminating the GST/HST on purpose-built rental housing to incentivize the construction of purpose-built rental housing.

Fourth, to provide low-cost, long-term fixed-rate financing for constructing purpose-built rental housing, as well as financing to upgrade existing purpose-built rentals to make them more accessible, climate-friendly and energy efficient.

Fifth, to ensure innovations achieve scale, the federal government should help develop a robust innovation strategy for housing, including procurement policy and innovation centres for housing construction.

Sixth, that the federal government should help reform the National Building Code to drive innovation in the homebuilding sector.

The seventh recommendation calls for the streamlining of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation approvals process, which can include a code of conduct for builders and a catalogue of pre-approved designs to allow for the fast-tracking of purpose-built rental housing.

Eighth, to create property acquisition programs for non-profit housing providers to help purchase existing rental housing projects, hotels and facilitate office-to-residential conversions. These programs could include capital grants, provision of pre-approved debt financing, funds that provide secondary debt and equity financing or other innovative levers that help with the initial costs without saddling the providers with operating and significant debt servicing costs.

Ninth is a call to create a Homelessness Prevention and Housing Benefit, which would provide immediate rental relief to up to 385,000 households at imminent risk of homelessness, help over 50,000 people leave homelessness and reduce pressure on Canada’s overwhelmed homeless systems.

And finally, to reform the Canada Housing Benefit to better target individuals and families with the greatest housing needs by replacing it with a portable housing benefit.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin questioned whether the housing benefit currently provided by the municipalities will “fill the gap.” He noted that housing for one to two people is in the $1,700 range. “There are many who are facing the question of ‘do I pay the utility bill or eat?’,” he said.

Staff encouraged municipalities who have the opportunity to attend the Association of Municipalities and Rural Municipalities of Ontario conferences and meet with provincial and federal officials to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the accord.

DSB staff had earlier noted that currently there are 200 families in the region receiving the DSB direct subsidy for housing top up.

Killarney rep Jim Rook told the board about the success the community was seeing thanks to Habitat for Humanity, which has built three new units on land provided by the municipality. A new 24-unit apartment complex is also in the works. It was noted that two such units are at the planning stage in Espanola.

“There is great work happening with Habitat for Humanity,” noted Mr. Rook, who asked if DSB can support the effort through the provision of data regarding the need in its communities.