Evidence of meeting #20 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was crisis.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Doug Pawson  Executive Director, End Homelessness St. John’s
Jacques Beaudoin  General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation
Parisa Mahboubi  Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute
John Milloy  Director, Centre for Public Ethics, Martin Luther University College

2:30 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

Jacques Beaudoin

I would add that social recovery must be included in economic recovery. We will not be able to dissociate the issues of economic recovery and social recovery. The latter will make it possible, for example, to develop affordable housing that meets high standards in terms of energy efficiency and ecological concerns. We have to see this as a whole and adopt a much broader perspective, if only in anticipation of a second wave. We will not make predictions, but we know that we will experience other difficult situations like the one we have experienced and are experiencing right now. So we have to be increasingly prepared to deal with those situations, and affordable housing is part of the solution.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thank you.

Chair, do I have more time?

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

You have 23 seconds.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

How does the social economy factor into ending homelessness, Mr. Pawson?

2:30 p.m.

Executive Director, End Homelessness St. John’s

Doug Pawson

That's a great question. Our history allows me to speak to this a bit: Social procurement and looking at the ways in which the non-profit social housing sector can be embedded into procurement.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thanks, Mr. Pawson.

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Turnbull.

Mr. Trudel, you have the floor for six minutes.

June 19th, 2020 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I also thank Mr. Pawson and Mr. Beaudoin.

First, I would just like to respond to my government colleague who was wondering if the government has done the right thing in the last two or three years with respect to housing.

I'm going to mention a few facts about the housing situation in Quebec at the moment. Housing needs are compelling: 500,000 households spend more than 30% of their income on housing; 300,000 households spend more than 50% of their income on housing; and 82,000 households spend 80% of their income on housing. These are concrete facts, and they are happening in Quebec right now. The situation is not rosy, especially since some of the money spent on social housing, in particular, is sleeping in Ottawa—this money has not been paid to the provinces.

Mr. Beaudoin, I want to set the record straight. When it comes to housing, language is important, especially when governments around the world are telling people to stay at home.

Could you explain the difference between affordable and social housing?

2:30 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

Jacques Beaudoin

In fact, it's social and community housing. By this expression, we mean housing that is, obviously, affordable and whose ownership is not based on the pursuit of profit, therefore not for profit.

These are collectively owned in the case of private organizations, such as non-profit organizations or housing co-operatives. However, there must be a desire for sustainability and a mode of community organization that allows for the mobilization of communities and tenants and their participation in management.

In our view, all of this helps to ensure that the projects we design remain affordable and serve the people who need them in the long term. The notion of affordability is important, but it is only one factor in housing rights.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you for your response, Mr. Beaudoin.

Since I've been a member of Parliament in Ottawa, I've often heard about Quebec's approach to housing, an approach that is said to be more comprehensive and more community-based.

Could you tell us about what characterizes Quebec's approach to housing?

2:35 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

Jacques Beaudoin

I'd be happy to talk about it, Mr. Trudel.

I'm not saying that Quebec is better than the other provinces, because each province has its own policies, constraints, directions and ways of doing things.

By necessity, we have developed a model over the last 20 years or so that is largely based on community initiative. The projects that are designed and receive support from authorities and government funding come from the communities. This is what has allowed us to set up dozens and dozens of seniors' residences in rural areas, in small communities.

In a hundred or so municipalities in Quebec, without these housing NPOs to provide housing with services for seniors, the latter would have to leave their communities and move to large centres when they retire or at the end of their lives, because there would be no housing with services for seniors.

In each of these communities, people of good will came together, and government support, private sector funding and shared initiatives ensured that these projects were successfully developed.

As you mentioned, this doesn't mean that everything is fine and everything is settled. There are still huge problems related to housing accessibility, access to a roof over one's head. There is still a lot to be done. We need to have funding available under the National Housing Strategy. An agreement must be signed as soon as possible.

However, the foundation has been laid. There are programs and a way of doing things that will allow us to use this money for further development.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Beaudoin.

With respect to the agreement between Quebec and Ottawa on the National Housing Strategy, we heard that $1.4 billion had not been spent and that this money for social and affordable housing should go to Quebec. The Government of Quebec wants control over that money, even though housing is a federal jurisdiction.

Why do you think it's important for Quebec to take the lead on housing?

2:35 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

Jacques Beaudoin

I would say that there are already programs and an approach that have been proven to work. The AccèsLogis Québec program, which has been in existence for some 20 years, has enabled the construction of 42,000 social and community housing units.

We managed to improve our indicators. For example, between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, the number of people in core housing need in Quebec decreased thanks to the investments made in AccèsLogis. This program has proven its ability to build and provide new housing for our clientele, which is very diversified, as I mentioned at the beginning of my statement.

If we get additional funding, we will be able to accelerate the construction of these new units to meet the needs. It will also be done quickly because both the program and the ecosystem of organizations with the capacity and professional knowledge to mount projects already exist. That is what we really need it for, and that is what the funds will be used for once the agreement is finalized.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Beaudoin.

Do I have any time left, Mr. Chair?

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

You have six seconds left.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

I have one last question on the real need for housing. How many people could be housed immediately if the agreement were signed tomorrow morning?

2:35 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Please answer briefly.

2:35 p.m.

General Secretary, Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation

Jacques Beaudoin

Quebec needs 5,000 new community units per year. With the help of this agreement, we could probably catch up with the backlog.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Trudel and Mr. Beaudoin.

Next we have Ms. Kwan, please, for six minutes.

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for their thoughtful presentations.

I'm going to start with you, Mr. Pawson. I'm wondering if you can comment on the recovery for all initiatives that have been proposed by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. They were here at HUMA to present their six-point plan. I wonder whether you have any thoughts about that and whether or not you support their six-point plan.

2:40 p.m.

Executive Director, End Homelessness St. John’s

Doug Pawson

A very short response to that question is yes, we support it.

Across our community, we work really closely with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and we do support its recovery for all plan. We've continued to work with them to advocate to the federal government under their six-point plan.

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

One of the comments that was posted on social media from End Homelessness St. John's says:

[W]e cannot go back to normal—[to] a normal where over 235,000 different Canadians every year are homeless; where 1.7 million households live in substandard or unaffordable housing; where people are at life threatening risk for no other reason than they are poor and don't have a place to call home.

Is this comment that was posted accurate?

2:40 p.m.

Executive Director, End Homelessness St. John’s

Doug Pawson

Yes. Across the country, that's what the data is showing.

Emergency shelter usage includes over 235,000 Canadians on an annual basis. Several more, obviously, are living in substandard and dilapidated housing conditions and are under-housed and overcrowded and just don't necessarily meet the traditional view of what people might think of homelessness. They're living in unsafe conditions. Of course, what the pandemic has shown is that you need safe conditions to isolate in. That is often missing for our most vulnerable neighbours across the country.

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

As part of the six-point plan, one of the components is to call for a major housing stimulus package in the recovery for the federal government to invest in. It's calling for maintaining the $157 million per year of additional funding, an expansion of the rural and remote stream to $50 million per year, and developing a new funding stream of $75 million to prevent homelessness for women, children and youth. That's as a baseline.

From that perspective, that would be one component of the six-point plan. Another component is a national guaranteed minimum income, which is an essential piece, because poverty is tied into it. I wonder if you can comment on these two specific recommendations.