Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Housing Plan Looks to Close Equality Gap; CMHC Head

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Housing Plan Looks to Close Equality Gap; CMHC Head

Article excerpt

Housing plan ambitious: CMHC head

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OTTAWA - The head of the federal agency crafting a national housing strategy says the plan will be far more ambitious than just building homes and is looking to close the equality gap between the haves and have-nots.

In a speech Thursday, Evan Siddall, CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said the forthcoming plan would increase housing supply -- up to 80,000 new affordable rental units, for instance -- grow the economy and potentially double overall spending with help from the private sector.

Evan Siddall said CMHC aims to use $5 billion earmarked in the 2017 federal budget to stimulate over $16 billion of investments over 11 years in affordable housing, including increases in CMHC direct lending of $8 billion and $2.9 billion of matching co-investments from housing providers, governments and the private sector.

The extra $10.9 billion, if it were to come to fruition, would be above the $11.2 billion package the Liberals unveiled in their second budget.

"Inequality threatens the very fabric of western society," Siddall said during the speech in Toronto.

"I'll be so bold as to suggest that this strategy is being created precisely to diminish the inequity that we see growing in our communities daily - to close the gap between 'haves' and 'have-nots'."

The comments are a change of tone from Siddall, who months ago tried to temper high expectations that the strategy would meet hopes that a national plan would move people out of shelters and into homes, increase the stock of affordable housing -- an area the federal government has retreated from over the last three decades -- and deal with concerns about affordability in the country's biggest cities.

They also come as the government faces pressure from local officials to get the housing money to them faster than planned. At the moment, most of the cash won't flow to cities until after 2022.

Representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities are sitting down with cabinet ministers at their annual meeting to urge the Liberals to find a way to shift spending forward.

"We've been talking about this affordable housing crisis and particularly (the) social housing crisis, for almost a decade and we can't wait for year 11 of the $81-billion plan to really see dollars flow," Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview ahead of the meetings. …

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