In February 2023, forty-five Canadian Foundations penned a letter to the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P., Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion regarding the National Housing Strategy (“NHS”). The message: 

The National Housing Strategy has fallen short.

The National Housing Strategy

The NHS, enacted in 2019, recognizes that the right to access affordable housing is essential and contributes to positive social, economic, health and environmental benefits.

“The National Housing Strategy is to, among other things,

(a) set out a long-term vision for housing in Canada that recognizes the importance of housing in achieving social, economic, health and environmental goals;

(b) establish national goals relating to housing and homelessness and identify related priorities, initiatives, timelines and desired outcomes;

(c) focus on improving housing outcomes for persons in greatest need; and

(d) provide for participatory processes to ensure the ongoing inclusion and engagement of civil society, stakeholders, vulnerable groups and persons with lived experience of housing need, as well as those with lived experience of homelessness.”

Progress to Date

The plan has invested $31.27 billion over five years as of December 31, 2022. The total committed investment is $82 billion, with spending reaching 2028. Consequently, the NHS aims to cut chronic homelessness by 50%, remove 530,000 families from housing needs, and construct up to 160,000 new affordable housing units. 

To date, the following has been achieved:  

However, while significant progress is being made, Canada is losing affordable housing units faster than new ones can be built. Between 2011-2021 Canada saw a net loss of 665,000 affordable units – an average of 66,500 annually. This exceeds the new affordable units that are being created annually through all other current National Housing Strategy programs.

Forty prominent Foundations believe Canada will not be able to built its way out of the housing crisis. Preserving existing rental units is one of the fastest and most impactful ways to address the national housing crisis.

These Foundations are proposing an alternative strategy.

National Housing Strategy & The Rental Housing Preservation Program

The Rental Housing Preservation Program (“RHPP”) will offer deferred federal loans to Canadian non-profits. When combined with existing Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) debt insurance programs, non-profits will finance the acquisition of multi-family residential rental properties. This program will transition rental units from the private sector into non-profit mission-driven ownership. By building a legacy of community-controlled affordable housing in perpetuity. Foundations can be partners in addressing the affordable housing crisis within their own communities.

The program would see $300 million invested over the next three years. With forty-five participating Foundations this investment would:

  • Permanently preserve approximately 35,000 affordable rental units across Canada;
  • Leverage $5-$8 of other capital for every federal dollar invested; and
  • Strengthen the financial sophistication of the non-profit housing sector.

Participating Foundations are responsible for raising 80% of the required capital from other sources of. This can include commercial debt, private equity, philanthropic sources, and other levels of government. Non-profits will commit to maintaining affordability by tying future rent increases to changes in operating costs rather than inflation in the real estate market.

Partnerships for Change at the Community Level

According to Philanthropic Foundations Canada, public and private foundations held $123 billion in assets and made over $8 billion in grants in 2020.

These Canadian Foundations are ready and able to commit to tackling Canada’s housing crisis in their communities by acquiring and protecting 35,000 properties. By creating partnerships that align with the NHS, the Federal Government can leverage the power and reach of the non-profit sector and increase the impact of the NHS across Canada.

You can help support this initiative by contacting your designated Member of Parliament to voice your concern about affordable housing in your community and to support this initiative. If you would like to donate to the housing crisis in Canada, support Place2Give’s Cradle to Grave Poverty Fund. For more information on setting up a Donor Advised Fund or Foundation email Place2Give here