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B.C. not getting fair share of federal homelessness funding: MP

Last Updated Sep 5, 2020 at 3:38 pm PDT

FILE - Tents at Stathcona Park (Kareem Gouda, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

The MP for the Downtown Eastside is miffed that B.C. has received but a sliver of federal homelessness funding

B.C. only got 0.5 per cent of $1.5 billion issued so far from National Housing Co-Investment Fund

NDP housing critic notes that Alberta and Quebec have been shut out of the fund altogether

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The MP for the riding that includes the Downtown Eastside is miffed that B.C. has received but a sliver of federal funds meant to address homelessness.

Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East and the NDP housing critic, has obtained a breakdown of where money from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund has gone.

“Get this, British Columbia only got 0.5 per cent of these funds. Only two applications were finalized,” she said.

“It was absolutely shocking to see the numbers. The truth is, though, we already suspected that British Columbia was not getting the kind of resources that we need to support and address our homelessness crisis.”

Some provinces shut out

Kwan notes that Alberta and Quebec have been shut out of the fund altogether, while Ontario has received 94 per cent of the nearly $1.5 billion so far.

The federal government unveiled its National Housing Co-Investment Fund three years ago, aimed at helping build more not-for-profit housing across the country.

“The vast majority of that money is going to Ontario. In fact, some provinces got zero money at all. Quebec is one of them. Alberta is another one,” Kwan said.

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Ontario received $1.34 billion, while B.C. got $7.3 million from the fund.

Kwan said she used a parliamentary process that allows order paper questions — a mechanism that allows MPs to gain access to more lengthy or detailed information — in February to get the facts about the initiative.

“I am writing urgently with regard to the need for the federal government to commit to working with the non-profits, provincial and municipal governments to address the housing and homelessness crisis, especially in light of a pandemic that has gripped the country and devastated the livelihoods of many Canadians,” she wrote in her letter.

“The homelessness crisis is not only an affront to human rights, but also poses an enormous national public health risk. This puts the individuals and the communities they live in at risk. Despite the indisputable importance of housing, I am deeply concerned that your government’s National Housing Strategy is woefully inadequate.”

‘Application process too long’

She adds the average processing time to reach a finalized agreement through the NHCF is 400 days, up to double the 194- to 289-day timeline provided on the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.

“I am concerned that the application process is long and complicated for the applicants [who] must respond to more than 200 questions in addition to providing the necessary supporting documents,” she says.

“As a result, many non-profit housing providers have indicated that this cumbersome process locks out many potential developers.”

Kwan said her riding alone had 2,223 residents identified in the 2019 Homeless Count as homeless, with 614 people living on the streets and 1,609 people living in emergency shelters, detox centers, safe houses and hospitals, with no fixed address.

‘Numbers not acceptable’

“These numbers are in no way acceptable, yet the count is considered conservative as many experiencing hidden homelessness were not identified.”

Kwan said the funding information puts the lie to what the federal Liberals have been saying.

“And they are bragging about what they have done on the National Housing Strategy. In reality, if you look at the program and the data itself, what we already know is that the money is not flowing to British Columbia. We have a housing crisis. We have Strathcona Park with the encampment, where people are desperate for housing. And the federal government is missing in action in B.C.”

The Trudeau government has responded, noting that they have spent $2.5 billion on housing in B.C. over the last three years through other funds.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that B.C, received 0.5 per cent of the funding, not 0.05 as initially reported. 

Jenny Kwan’s order letter:

Order Paper Question Q-282 response