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Six Measures the Federal Government Can Introduce in Budget 2024 to Fix the Housing Crisis and Solve Homelessness

March 18, 2024 - 5:23 pm / News

With a wave of new homelessness accelerating across Canada, Budget 2024 presents a critical moment for the federal government to address the immediate challenges faced by Canadians experiencing and at-risk of homelessness, while building the long-term solutions needed to solve the housing and affordability crises affecting people in communities across the country.  

While homelessness is an urgent and growing problem, we know that it is solvable, and the decisions and investments made in the next budget can have an immediate impact.  

The National Housing Accord, co-authored by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, REALPAC, and the PLACE Centre at the Smart Prosperity Institute, presents Canadians with a plan to restore affordability, protect Canada’s most vulnerable, and build at least two million new affordable and market rental units by 2030. Canadians across the country are now looking to the federal government to provide a vision and national leadership to end homelessness and address the housing crisis. 

In Budget 2024, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness is calling upon the federal government to introduce six key measures, as part of a federal strategy to end homelessness:

  1. Implement the full National Housing Accord, including supporting the construction of at least 655,000 non-market community housing units
    Canada is lagging behind our peer countries in community and affordable housing stock. To end homelessness, we need a healthy housing system, which includes an adequate supply of purpose-built rental and non-market social housing. Canada must support and invest in the construction of at least 655,000 non-market housing units to make efforts to restore housing affordability and ensure all Canadians have a safe and affordable place to call home. 
  1. Introduce a Homelessness Prevention and Housing Benefit
    The worsening cost-of-living crisis coupled with the exponential increase in housing costs have led to a wave of new homelessness crashing down upon Canada. For people at risk of losing their homes, supports are needed to help them keep their housing and to stop them from becoming homeless. A Homelessness Prevention and Housing Benefit would do just that – ensuring those at risk of homelessness have the financial support needed to afford their real rents, and to support those experiencing homelessness to move into housing. If introduced in Budget 2024 and rapidly implemented, this could slow or stop growing homelessness until we’ve fixed the housing crisis and restored affordability for all. 
  1. Implement an Encampment Response Program
    Encampments are growing across the country as people experiencing homelessness have nowhere else safe and appropriate to go. Encampments are not even a ‘temporary’ solution to homelessness and are mostly unsafe for those living in them. Budget 2024 should include a federally funded Encampment Response Program that supports people experiencing homelessness and living in encampments to quickly move into appropriate, safe, and secure housing. A federally funded response program would support communities to implement locally informed encampment resolution approaches that put housing and people at the centre of each response.  
  1. Extend and Expand Reaching Home
    Reaching Home, Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, was introduced in 2018. It provides essential and lifesaving funding to help cities across the country to respond to homelessness. Funding for this critical program has already been reduced and will be significantly reduced further in the coming years – in the face of this wave of new homelessness. If funding is not renewed, communities across the country will be unable to continue their work to build coordinated systems that get people into housing. The end of this program would further worsen the homelessness crisis Canada faces.  
  1. Develop a Refugee and Asylum Seeker Resettlement Program
    Shelter systems are currently overwhelmed by asylum seekers across the country. In Toronto, over half of all shelter beds are supporting asylum seekers, as of February 2024. In Vancouver, shelters are reporting up to 80% of their beds are supporting asylum seekers. Some of those fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, have died waiting for shelter in Canada.
    The federal government must develop a comprehensive Refugee and Asylum Seeker Resettlement Program that ensures those seeking safety in Canada are not placed in municipal homeless shelter systems. This includes building reception centres at key border crossings and airports that connect newcomers to housing and stopping the increasing airport-to-shelter pipeline that new asylum seekers currently experience by providing appropriate housing to help newcomers get on their feet while their asylum claims are processed. 
  1. Establish a Homelessness Reduction Accelerator Fund
    Often communities that are doing good work to end homelessness need a little boost to get their solutions over the line. Canadians have seen the immediate impact of concerted efforts to remove barriers and accelerate new housing through the Housing Accelerator Fund. A Homelessness Reduction Accelerator Fund, similar to the Housing Accelerator Fund and the Green Municipal Fund, would provide small grants to support communities clear obstacles that are getting in the way of their critical efforts to end homelessness. This fund would support communities to build locally-driven and better-coordinated response systems, prevent homelessness, and accelerate reductions of the number of people experiencing homelessness.  

As Budget 2024 seeks to deliver good jobs for Canadians, address rising affordability challenges, and set the next generation up for success, bold housing policy must be a part of the solution. The housing crisis requires Canada’s immediate attention, and the federal government must respond with the urgency and ambition required in Budget 2024.  

Find out how you can help get these measures in Budget 2024, by taking action here.