Housing Benefit a Welcome Solution for Those in Housing Need; Addressing Housing Affordability Needs Attention Next

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA)  welcomed the announcement of the Canada Housing Benefit as part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy.  The Strategy, whose primary focus is on those vulnerable populations most in need, addresses key social housing challenges.  Moving forward, CHBA continues to recommend that the key issues of housing affordability, especially for young families and new Canadians, be the focus of a next phase of the Strategy.

“With regards to the Canada Housing Benefit, CHBA has long recommended measures to help low-income Canadians participate directly in the wider housing market. The vast majority of Canadians in core housing need have an income problem, not a housing problem. This Benefit can provide them support and choice, rather than tying them to specific housing units,” said Kevin Lee, Chief Executive Officer of CHBA.

Over the past number of years CHBA has recommended the introduction of just such a “portable” housing benefit that would support low-income individuals directly, rather than subsidize buildings. Data released by Statistics Canada last week confirms that over 836,000 households need income support based on their rent-to-income ratio. This means that more than three-quarters of households designated as in “housing need” live in adequate housing, but can’t afford it.

CHBA was also pleased to see the federal government commit to a new public engagement campaign to encourage inclusive communities. A national “NIMBY to YIMBY” campaign (Not-In-My-Back-Yard to Yes-In-My-Back-Yard) has also been a CHBA recommendation to support the development of complete mixed-use, mixed-income communities. Inclusive communities can promote inclusiveness and greater housing affordability, as well as fairer treatment of newcomers to housing.

Therefore, CHBA welcomes the concrete and innovative measures in the National Housing Strategy to support the needs of disadvantaged Canadians; at the same time CHBA also stresses that a next phase of the National Housing Strategy needs to address the rest of the housing continuum, and specifically focus on housing affordability on a whole-of-market basis.

“Addressing the entire housing continuum is essential to any successful housing strategy,” said Mr. Lee. “Canadians are concerned about the next generation being able to afford a home.  And even when it comes to those in core need, international experts advise that you can’t solve social housing challenges unless you also address market-rate affordability. If housing affordability is not addressed, not only will many be locked out of the homeownership – a key aspiration of the middle class and those seeking to join it – but others will slip back on the continuum and into core housing need.”

“Actions around mortgage rules have attempted to dampen demand, making it harder to buy a home.  But there is a significant lack of supply of market-based housing that people can afford, driving up house prices.  Canada’s urban centres need more of the ‘missing middle’ and entry-level housing that’s critical for families, and governments need to help make that happen,” said Mr. Lee.

While measures to increase the supply of these much-needed homes falls largely within the provincial and municipal spheres, the federal government can play an important leadership in this area, through data and analysis on housing supply, and through its investments in infrastructure to support transit-oriented development.  Only by addressing market-rate affordability with concrete measures can the Canada’s housing system be a success.

“Measures in recent years put in place by governments at all levels have made entry-level homes harder to obtain.  There are also many discussions about adding more costly elements into the building code, which would further erode affordability.  Canada needs innovative solutions, and more R&D, to continue to provide even better houses not more expensively, but for the same price or less.  We look forward to working with the federal government on how these critical issues around housing affordability can best be addressed”, Mr. Lee concluded.

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MEDIA INQUIRIES
Journalists wishing to interview Kevin Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association are encouraged to submit their request by email or telephone to:
David Foster
Senior Director, Communications
(613) 230-3060 ext. 232
foster@chba.ca

ABOUT THE CANADIAN HOME BUILDERS’ ASSOCIATION
Since 1943, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association has been “the voice of Canada’s residential construction industry” – one of the most vital and enterprising industries in Canada. Representing more than 8,500 member firms across Canada, CHBA members represent every part of Canada’s housing industry – home builders, renovators, land developers, trade contractors, product and material manufacturers, building product suppliers, lending institutions, insurance providers, service professionals and others.

In 2016, the industry supported over 1 million jobs in new home construction, renovation and repair. It remains one of the largest employers in the country, with tens of thousands of business enterprises engaged. One of every 18 workers in Canada is working in residential construction, either directly on site or indirectly by supplying materials, technologies and services. Total wages paid in 2016 were estimated at $59.4 billion. The construction‐related value of new homes, renovations and repairs produced by the industry, including both on‐ and off‐site activities in 2016 exceeded $138 billion.