Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank all the members of the committee for having invited us today.
The events of the past few months, you will agree, have certainly been a tremendous challenge for all Canadians. This was particularly the case for the sector we represent, the non-profit housing sector organizations, or NPOs, in Quebec. There are 1,250 organizations in Quebec that own and administer 2,600 housing projects, or nearly 55,000 affordable housing units, all of which are intended for a variety of vulnerable clienteles.
Of these households, nearly half are composed of seniors, who are known to be among those most at risk in the current pandemic. The others are families, including one or two-parent families, women and children victims of violence, troubled youth, people at risk of homelessness, and others living with physical or mental health problems.
The variety of clienteles found in our housing NPOs represents just about the entire spectrum of the most vulnerable people in Quebec society, as is also the case in non-profit housing in other provinces. COVID-19 has added an additional layer of hardship for these people.
Having said that, we are pleased, if I may use that term, that less than 5% of non-profit housing projects in Quebec have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Among those, there have been no significant outbreaks. I would like to believe that having access to affordable, safe and well-maintained housing, where there is community support and where people take care of each other, has contributed to the overall positive results in terms of protecting individuals.
Almost a year ago to the day, on June 20, the Parliament of Canada took a historic step by recognizing housing as a fundamental human right. The importance of everyone having a roof over their heads and a place to live in safety has never been more evident than in the context of the current pandemic. The commitment enshrined in the National Housing Strategy Act to advance the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing must inform the government's response to the pandemic and the recovery plan in the coming weeks or months.
The organizations we represent, their managers and the thousands of volunteers who work for them have spared no effort over the past three months to put in place the protective measures recommended by the various public health authorities, despite the limited means at their disposal. I might mention the control of comings and goings in the buildings, the intensification of sanitation measures, the provision of personal protective equipment, as well as the preparation and delivery of meals to seniors in seniors' residences, directly to their rental units. All of this has had a major impact on the operating expenses of our member organizations.
A survey we conducted among them in the last few days allowed us to estimate the additional costs caused by the pandemic in all housing NPOs in Quebec over the last three months at approximately $30 million. These are mainly costs associated with the additional human and material resources that had to be mobilized. This is in addition to the loss of certain revenues. Although this loss was less significant than could have been expected, it still adds pressure on the budgetary balance of our organizations. There was a loss of rental income, mainly because of the difficulty in renting units that became vacant that we could not show potential tenants. These revenue losses totalled about $10 million.
It should be noted that the vast majority of our organizations do not receive any financial support for their operations. Any increase in expenses must necessarily be offset by an increase in their own-source revenues. Since these revenues come from rents, this poses a challenge for maintaining the affordability of our housing units. The assistance programs that have been put in place, such as the emergency wage subsidy, have been designed primarily to help businesses that have suffered significant revenue losses, not necessarily those that, rather than suffering a significant loss of revenue, have experienced a significant increase in expenses. As a result, our members have not been able to benefit from this particular program. A number of them did, however, benefit from the Canadian emergency business account. They have taken advantage of it and we are very pleased about that. It's been very helpful to them.
We hope that in the coming days, the $350-million emergency community support fund announced for community organizations will support our non-profit housing organizations, which greatly need that support.
In my presentation, I argued that the right to housing should inform the government's response to the pandemic. In our view, this should translate into a revitalization and acceleration of the National Housing Strategy. We need a more ambitious and stronger strategy. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has set the goal of ensuring that by 2030, all Canadians will have affordable housing. To achieve this goal, the National Housing Strategy needs to provide better delivery and even greater program flexibility.
Given the situation we are experiencing now and will experience in the coming weeks due to the health crisis, we invite the government to consider the possibility of creating an emergency fund to support the acquisition by non-profit organizations, and eventually, by municipalities, of affordable housing that may become available on the private market. A slowdown, or even a collapse, in the real estate market is expected, announced or projected. In this context, some owners will want to dispose of their assets.
There is currently affordable housing in the private market that we wish to retain. We do not want the situation to become like the one we experienced in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, a kind of "financialization" of the housing market. This led to a massive loss of affordable housing. Between 2011 and 2016, Canada lost 322,000 affordable housing units for households earning less than $30,000 a year. The current programs of the National Housing Strategy, as valid as they are, do not provide the flexibility needed to encourage such acquisitions. Such acquisitions would preserve the affordable housing stock and ensure its sustainability by removing it from the speculative market.
In conclusion, I would like to convey a message from all representatives of the Quebec social and community housing sector. They fervently hope that the agreement between Ottawa and the province on the transfer of funds provided for in the National Housing Strategy will finally be concluded, and quickly. Quebec is the only province that does not have access to these funds. In our view, these funds are absolutely necessary so that we can continue to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Quebec households whose housing needs are imperative.
The pandemic has shown us that when they have the will to do so and the situation requires it, governments are capable of acting quickly and decisively in crisis situations. What we have managed to do collectively, in the context of the health crisis, we should also be able to do in the context of the housing crisis.
Thank you for your attention.