The federal Liberals inched a step closer to a national housing strategy on Wednesday by announcing an investment of $11.2 billion over 11 years in the 2017 budget.
The money will be used to build, renew and repair Canada’s affordable housing stock, according to the official document.
But Peter Julian, NDP MP for New Westminster-Burnaby, said cities, where finding an affordable place to live is getting harder and harder, need the federal dollars now.
“A budget is a one-year snapshot. It’s not all the promises that are made further down the road because those can be changed in a moment,” he told the Record.
“There’s $10 million (in 2017), which is enough to build a few dozen units of affordable housing somewhere in Canada. It’s almost laughable if it wasn’t so sad. Where is that one small apartment building going to go?” Julian asked.
The MP criticized the Liberals’ budget for being “just words” and “no action,” pointing to promises where money won’t kick in until 2018/19, including creating more child care spaces and allowing people on EI to go back to school and still receive EI benefits.
“It’s profoundly disappointing,” said Julian.
Terry Beech, Liberal MP for Burnaby North-Seymour, called the housing investment the largest of its kind in Canadian history.
“This is the Government of Canada getting back into housing affordability in a big way,” he said. “There will be significant investments made starting right away.”
Beech said his party is taking a new approach to the affordability crisis by investing “in all sides of the housing continuum.”
“We’re going to work with municipalities and the province and the private sector to leverage our investments and make sure that people can afford to live where they work,” the MP added.
The Liberals’ new National Housing Strategy includes a $5-billion national housing fund “to address critical housing issues, and better support vulnerable citizens,” according to the 2017 budget.
The strategy also includes renewing the federal-provincial-territorial housing partnership by injecting $3.2 billion over 11 years to provinces and territories. The money would go towards things like rent subsidies and renovations and repairs of existing housing.
Another $2.1 billion over 11 years will be used to tackle homelessness. The Liberals also plan to give up more federal land for affordable housing and create a new national housing database, one that will track purchases, sales, demographics, financing and foreign ownership.
A few budget highlights:
·Tax levied on tobacco and alcohol products will be raised; both rates will be adjusted every April 1 starting in 2018, based on the Consumer Price Index.
·The Public Transit Tax Credit will be eliminated, effective July 1, 2017.
·Phasing out the Canada Savings Bond program, which was created in 1946. The federal government says since reaching its peak in the late 1980s, the program has experienced a “prolonged decline.”
·Canada’s deficit is $23 billion in 2016/17, and will be $28.5 billion in 2017/18. By 2021/22, that figure should be down to $18.8 billion.
·40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces across Canada by 2018.
·An investment of $43 million over five years, starting in 2017/18 and $9.2 million per year thereafter, to allow expectant mothers to claim maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date (expanded from the current standard of eight weeks).
·A boost of $90 million over two years to support indigenous peoples and their post-secondary education (approximately 4,600 students).
·Ensuring ride-sharing services like Uber are paying GST and HST, just like the taxi industry does.