A national housing strategy must be part of any plan to end poverty in Canada

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Image: PublicDomainPhotos.Net

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

On Tuesday, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, met with his provincial and territorial counterparts to discuss priority policy areas, with a focus on the development of a National Housing Strategy. Following the meeting, Minister Duclos indicated that Canadians would soon be able to participate in online and other public consultations about a long-term strategy.

Minister Duclos reiterated the March federal budget commitment of $2.3 billion over two years in funding for affordable housing and social infrastructure. He has already begun "pre-consultations" with stakeholders on the development of a National Housing Strategy over the past several months.

It is now a welcome moment for broader and more inclusive consultations about an issue that impacts millions of people in Canada.

An urgent need for action

The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association issued a declaration in April outlining what it hoped to see from a national housing plan. They called for it to have a long-term focus, a collaboratively developed policy framework and adequate funding. Organizations like the Right to Housing Coalition are calling for a rights-based national housing strategy that is developed in consultation with all levels of government, including Indigenous, along with community stakeholders and those living the reality of housing precarity or homelessness.

The urgent need for a long-term, well funded National Housing Strategy is clear. Over one in four households (27 per cent in 2010) spend between 30-50 per cent of after tax income on housing. 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year, less than 20 per cent of whom end up on the street, while the rest are part of the "hidden homeless." The current stock of affordable and social housing is in need of repair and new affordable housing is desperately needed. 

Budget 2016 takes initial steps

The budget funding commitments take us part of the way to addressing this urgency. The federal government has dedicated funding for new affordable housing units, repairs to existing units, increased seniors affordable housing, subsidies for social housing, and new shelters and transition houses for victims of violence. The budget also commits to continue support for the Homeless Partnering Strategy. Further, there is an investment of $739 million for First Nations, Inuit and Northern communities, although it's not entirely clear how the funding and allocation will line up with the investments in Indigenous community infrastructure.

However, the budget commitments largely are playing catch up with the neglect of affordable and social housing and infrastructure needs that has gone on for decades. It is possible that a well-developed and well-funded national housing strategy could take us further on the path to adequate and affordable housing for everyone in Canada, but it cannot do so without a broader vision.

A vision for a national anti-poverty plan

In the Prime Minister's mandate letter to Minister Duclos, the federal government has committed to developing a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. For the Dignity for All campaign, led by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, which has actively pushed for a national anti-poverty plan since 2009, this was a welcome commitment. However, in the model national anti-poverty plan that the campaign developed with broad consultation and released in 2015, a national housing strategy is part of a larger and more comprehensive plan to end poverty in Canada.

A comprehensive national anti-poverty plan addresses the complex reality of poverty, recognizing that a number of policy areas need to be understood and addressed in relation to each other in order to effect change. The Dignity for All plan provides a rights-based framework that provides concrete policy recommendations in six areas: income security, housing and homelessness, healthcare, food security, employment, and early childhood education and care. The success of a National Housing Strategy depends on a larger comprehensive plan so that the multiple barriers faced by those facing housing insecurity are addressed.

The best way to ensure that a responsive and effective strategy is developed is to ensure that those with lived experience and those who work on social policy and service provision in the area of housing and homelessness are partners in the consultation process. It is also essential that the varied and dire needs of Indigenous communities, First Nations, Inuit, and Northern in particular, are represented through consultation partnerships and that the process and actions are consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

A process driven by first voices, along with social policy and service providers, will recognize the need for a long-term and comprehensive vision that can include an effective strategy for safe, affordable, and secure housing for everyone.

Darlene O'Leary is the socio-economic policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based member driven public policy organization in Ottawa.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: PublicDomainPhotos.Net

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.