Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome this opportunity to speak to the motion by the hon. member for Saskatoon West. It gives me the opportunity to update the House and Canadians on the impressive progress we are making to increase the supply of quality, affordable and suitable housing, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
From day one, our government has understood that housing matters. It is a cornerstone of our strategy to grow the middle class in Canada, to grow our economy and help more Canadians join the middle class. From day one, we have seen the challenges Canadians face in finding affordable housing. That is why one of our first priorities was to bring the Government of Canada back into housing after many years, too many years, unfortunately, of neglect. We have acted decisively with historic long-term investments. We have consulted widely. We have listened to Canadians. We have collaborated with partners across sectors and all orders of government. As I will demonstrate shortly for members, hundreds of thousands of families are already benefiting.
Investing in housing goes well beyond just bricks and mortar. As our Prime Minister said, all Canadians deserve to have a home, a place where they feel safe, where they can have confidence in their future and focus on themselves and their family.
It also means building inclusive communities for everyone and making sure that all Canadians have affordable housing that meets their needs. Unfortunately, too many Canadians simply cannot afford suitable housing. At this time, approximately 1.7 million families in Canada are in housing need. These families are living in housing that is overcrowded, unaffordable or in need of repairs. In addition, nearly 25,000 Canadians experience chronic homelessness every year.
In many urban areas, the housing supply simply does not meet the demand. The people building our communities, by which I mean middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them, including teachers, nurses, store clerks, construction workers and so on, are struggling to make ends meet. This situation is unacceptable and must change.
My role as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is to improve the lives of all Canadians. That is why one of our government's priorities when it was elected was to immediately increase investments in housing, and that is what it did starting in budget 2016. That budget included a $2.7-billion investment for two new initiatives to increase the supply of affordable rental housing across the country. Budget 2016 also made an additional commitment of $2.3 billion to immediately improve housing conditions for low-income households, seniors, northern and indigenous communities, and survivors fleeing unfortunate situations of family violence.
Our first budget also included nearly $112 million in new investments over two years in the homelessness partnering strategy. This significant new investment represented an increase of 50% in the funding allocated to the strategy and the first increase in federal funding to combat homelessness since the strategy was implemented in 1999.
My colleague from Saskatoon West is well aware that, since 2016, we have invested over $4.7 billion in affordable housing through various programs, including the affordable housing initiative, long-term federal-provincial-territorial social housing agreements, and the social infrastructure fund. By so doing, we have helped 945,000 households, including families, seniors, women and children fleeing domestic violence, indigenous Canadians, people with disabilities, people with mental health problems and addiction issues, veterans, and young Canadians, and that is just the beginning.
In November 2017, we announced the Canadian government's very first national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan that will help more Canadians, starting with our most vulnerable populations, obtain affordable housing that they can call home.
The goal of this ambitious plan is to ensure that all Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and is affordable. Our plan will produce results for Canadians. Over the next 10 years, 530,000 additional families will finally be able to afford housing that meets their needs. Moreover, during this period, we will reduce chronic homelessness by more than 50%.
My colleague from Saskatoon West also knows, and will agree, that this is an historic strategy and an opportunity to implement lasting change that only presents itself once in a generation. That is why we consulted Canadians and experts across the country when developing the national housing strategy. I am very grateful to everyone for the time and effort they spent to participate in this important but all too rare conversation and for sharing their many ideas with us. These consultations meant that developing the strategy was truly a collaborative process.
The key pillars were a collaborative effort as well. We brought all the stakeholders together so that we could address each community's unique housing needs. After all, as the member for Saskatoon West knows, solutions for the housing needs in her riding are very different from the solutions needed in downtown Toronto or in Iqaluit, for example.
In the spring, we started introducing the key pillars of this ambitious plan. For example, we launched major initiatives to build up housing stocks, including the national housing co-investment Fund. This $13.2-billion fund will create 60,000 affordable housing units, and repair or renovate up to 240,000 units. Approximately one-third of the fund will be allocated to financial contributions, and the rest will be used for low-interest loans.
Since this is a co-investment fund, the partners will play a key role. The program encourages the provinces and territories, social and community housing providers, municipalities, the private sector and indigenous governments to work with the Canadian government to come up with solutions tailored to their communities' needs. It will focus on what Canadians really want and prioritize projects that exceed the usual affordability, energy efficiency and accessibility requirements. It will be aimed at individuals, communities, and partnerships and will come with specific targets for supporting survivors of family violence, seniors, and people with developmental disabilities.
In April, we also signed a historic agreement for a housing partnership framework with all of our provincial and territorial partners, at our first meeting in over a quarter century. This framework represents $7.7 billion in funding, which will be combined with equivalent contributions from the partners and invested in programs that meet the unique needs of Canadians, whether they live in a remote community in Nunavut, an urban area in British Columbia, a small municipality in Prince Edward Island, or anywhere else across Canada.
So far, Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick have signed bilateral agreements based on this historic framework. We expect to sign agreements with the other provinces and territories by April 1, 2019.
We also launched an initiative to keep federally administered community and social housing affordable, a critical step in protecting low-income Canadians in housing need. Each of these steps is based on other housing initiatives and programs that our government has implemented since it was elected in 2015.
For instance, in 2016, we announced the rental construction financing initiative. Interest in the program far exceeded our expectations, so much so, that we extended the initiative in budget 2018 and increased its funding, which now stands at $3.75 billion.
By 2021, the rental construction financing initiative will have helped create 14,000 new affordable housing rental units for middle-class Canadians. This is filling a gap between housing assistance and the rental housing market, where it is needed the most.
Similarly, the affordable housing innovation fund will create 4,000 new units over a five-year period by investing more than $200 million in innovative financing models and unique designs.
Finally, to stretch our investments in new construction even further, we are making approximately $200 million worth of federal lands available to community housing providers at a discount or at no cost.
This past summer, we also launched a new homelessness strategy, a 10-year $2.2-billion plan to reduce homelessness by 50%. This plan, called “reaching home”, will give more communities more funding and tools to fight homelessness on their terms. It will lead to better solutions for youths, seniors, women fleeing violence, veterans, people living with disabilities and those from LGBTQ2 or racialized communities.
There is also new funding to improve the situation of indigenous people living in cities, who are eight times more likely to experience homelessness than other Canadians. Our plan also includes new funding for the territories so they can tackle the unique challenges of homelessness in the north.
To stretch our homelessness investment as far as possible, we have created tools to help streamline the process to get people into housing and to coordinate the support services they need stay in stable housing over the long term.
This work represents an incredible achievement over just two years. I am proud of how we have been able to collaborate with Canadians and other stakeholders along the housing continuum to launch programs that will make a lasting difference, but of course there is still much more work to do.
As I mentioned previously, we are working hard with provincial and territorial partners to sign bilateral agreements with all provinces and territories by April 2019. I know that members and other Canadians are particularly concerned about the difficult housing conditions in indigenous communities. Under the national housing strategy, $225 million has been invested in improving housing for indigenous families living in urban centres. An additional $200 million has been allocated to support urban indigenous households, through bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories. In addition, $300 million will be provided to the three northern territories to support 3,000 households in their communities.
I am also working very closely with the Minister of Indigenous Services and indigenous leaders and organizations to co-develop distinct first nations, Métis and Inuit housing strategies. These strategies would meet the unique needs of each group and will be anchored in the principles of reconciliation and self-determination.
We have also launched major research initiatives to fill data gaps that exist around housing needs and conditions. I look forward to seeing the resulting research and learning how we can continue to make progress on creating better housing outcomes for all Canadians.
Finally, we are currently writing legislation that would enshrine the human rights-based approach to housing that is the foundation of the national housing strategy. We are planning to table this vital legislation this year and are confident that it will take us further toward the progressive realization of the right to housing in Canada, as has been called for for many years in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This legislation would ensure that affordable housing remains a priority for all governments and would benefit all Canadians for generations to come.
I will say again that the Government of Canada is back in housing. In fact, we are back in a big way, with ambition, with support and with a desire to collaborate. Canadians and housing leaders across Canada are on-board with our new approach and I urge all members on the other side of the House to join them. Working together, we can deliver an inclusive national housing strategy that will improve the lives of all Canadians and strengthen our communities and our economy for years to come.