As communities across the country experience an increase in homelessness and an explosion in housing need, today’s federal budget fails to do anything new to address the crisis Canada is facing.
With one million newcomers, a wave of new homelessness driven by rampant inflation, and a massive loss of affordable housing, this budget needed to take meaningful action to address Canada’s housing crisis.
“It’s clear that the federal government does not see the scale and urgency of these crises, and have offered no solutions,” says Tim Richter, President & CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH). “For thousands of Canadians who will not be able to pay their rent this week, they will find no relief or meaningful support in this budget. Too many others will be projected unnecessarily into the life-threatening experience of homelessness.”
The CAEH welcomes measures that will put more money in the pockets of Canadians who are struggling to get by, but the ‘Grocery Rebate’ announced today does very little to support those in the greatest need. Canadians have seen the price of groceries rise at double the rate of inflation and rent rise by more than 20 per cent in our largest cities. A one-off payment of a few hundred dollars will do little to bridge the gap between incomes and the real cost of essentials that Canadians are facing.
The cost-of-living crisis is creating a homelessness crisis on the scale of Canada’s largest natural disasters. In a sample of 14 communities with quality data, 79 per cent saw increases in chronic homelessness since 2020, with overall increases averaging 34 per cent. 74 per cent of Canadians report that homelessness is increasing in their communities.
The only way to combat this wave of new homelessness is through targeted rent support, like the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’ Homelessness Prevention and Housing Benefit. This benefit would provide substantial rent support directly to the most vulnerable Canadians and would prevent up to 385,000 people who are currently housed from losing their homes and support more than 50,000 people who are experiencing chronic homelessness into permanent housing.
Heading off this wave of new homelessness will cost far less than responding to it. By failing to provide the support needed now, it will be harder for the federal government to exercise fiscal restraint as they and other levels of government are forced to respond to the significant humanitarian crisis caused by the trauma of more mass homelessness.
The budget does include $4 billion for an Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, which is positive, but far short of what’s needed. Furthermore, the budget indicates that this will be delivered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), rather than by an Indigenous-led organization. We urge the federal government to allocate this funding directly to the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Inc. (NICHI) consistent with Canada’s obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The CAEH also welcomes measures to help vulnerable Canadians access the benefits they need. Progress on automatic tax filing for low-income Canadians will help more people access the benefits they’re entitled to and new restrictions on predatory lenders will protect vulnerable people. Further funding for safe consumption sites and a renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy is also welcome.
Overall, this budget represents a failure to address Canada’s urgent housing and homelessness crises. It does nothing to prevent the wave of new homelessness that is crashing down in communities across Canada, it does nothing new to address the loss of affordable housing and does too little to ease the cost-of-living pressures that Canadians are facing.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness will be campaigning to change this budget and put pressure on the federal government to respond with urgency to the crises we face.