CBC: Federal fund for rental units won't fix housing crisis, advocates say

Story, photo: Robyn Miller

Tuesday's budget allocates $10B to continue rental construction initiative

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The $10 billion earmarked in Tuesday's federal budget to continue a program aimed at spurring construction of new rental units won't go far enough to fix Ottawa's affordable housing crisis, advocates say. 

The cash will be doled out over the next nine years, enabling the construction of about 42,000 units across Canada as part of the federal government's rental construction financing initiative.

There just really was nothing there for new affordable builds.- Coun. Catherine McKenney

Coun. Catherine McKenney, Ottawa's housing and homelessness liaison, said that while the city does need more rental units, it's only a small part of a much larger problem. 

"There just really was nothing there for new affordable builds, and we need new affordable builds and we need rent supplements and we need the federal government to commit to the national housing strategy," McKenney said during an affordable housing rally outside Ottawa City Hall on Wednesday.

McKenney said there are currently nearly 50,000 Ottawans in need of affordable housing, and said many people are spending as much as half their income on a place to live.

Gisèle Bouvier, with the Vanier chapter of the anti-poverty group ACORN Canada, agreed the federal budget missed the mark when it comes to affordable housing.

"That means that's money that's not going to the rest of the economy. And it's just ridiculous to have these high rents that [are] gobbling up all these funds that could go elsewhere to build the economy," Bouvier said.

The budget highlighted a previously announced $70.8-million low-cost loan to Claridge Homes to build a 27-storey, ecologically friendly and accessible rental building at Gloucester and Metcalfe streets in downtown Ottawa.

The building will include 200 rental units that will be leased below market rates.

Neil Malhotra, Claridge's chief financial officer, said the project wouldn't be financially feasible without the financing initiative.

"Rental housing is a long-term structure. It takes time to recover your investment in the property," Malhotra said, adding it could take Claridge up to 30 years to see a return on the project.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson recently announced the city will spend $15 million of its own money in an attempt to double the number of affordable housing units this year.

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