Mr. Speaker, on October 26, 2018, days after advocates from across Canada visited Ottawa for Housing on the Hill Day, I took the opportunity to highlight some of the struggles facing front-line organizations hoping to access the national housing strategy's co-investment fund.
I asked the hon. minister if he would be willing to get down to work to alleviate the excessive administrative burdens placed on groups with limited resources who are forced to fill out lengthy and onerous applications, with almost 200 questions, to even have a chance at accessing the co-investment fund.
However, that is clearly not the only issue with this fund. This program also has a five-unit minimum, which excludes some smaller viable projects, many of which could be built in smaller towns and rural communities.
The online system for applying to this fund is onerous and difficult to navigate. The help from the government for applicants is lacking. Applicants have cited incidents of government staff being unable to answer basic questions, and even worse, giving out the wrong information. One applicant stated there was a feeling of learning the process alongside the government staff who were administering the program.
Making funding dependent upon the participation of local or provincial governments makes sense, but waiting for guaranteed commitments from those partners often prevents projects from being submitted in a timely manner. We have a crisis and we need housing now.
Last November, at the one-year anniversary of the release of the national housing strategy, Canadians were provided with an update on achievements to date. The announcement seemed to imply a reporting back on the achievements of the national housing strategy, but in fact included all activity on housing since 2016, investments prior to the launch of the national housing strategy.
The actual progress on the initiatives announced in the national housing strategy, to lots of fanfare, speeches, news releases and media headlines, is much more limited. If we are to truly evaluate the success of the first-ever national housing strategy, the government must live up to its rhetoric on transparency and accountability. Canadians and parliamentarians deserve good information that is accurate and presented in a way that would allow us to actually evaluate the strategy. More facts than fanfare would be appreciated.
The government promised real change, but the rollout of the national housing strategy does not seem to be based in reality. Sadly, the government has been very slow to roll out new investment and to implement the programs touted in the strategy. The words are there but the action on the ground to make a difference and truly roll out the dollars is not.
Every year, 235,000 people experience some form of homelessness in Canada, and almost three million Canadians spend more than 30% of their income on housing. In the face of these shocking numbers, the glacial pace of implementation of the national housing initiative is frustrating for many stakeholders, and more significantly, for the many households in deep need and those on the streets and in emergency shelters all across the country.
Did the minister or a representative sit down and listen to those that know, like the non-profit housing providers, and allow the flexibility they asked for? Did the government then make the necessary changes so that all communities could get down to work and address the housing and homelessness crisis in this country? A yes or no answer with details would be greatly appreciated.