Election 2021 produced a Liberal minority in a pro-housing Parliament. Where do we go from here?
To many outside the housing world, Election 2021 may have felt like ‘much ado about nothing’ with a Parliament looking almost the same as it did before the campaign began.
But for those of us who work in housing and ending homelessness - and most importantly for those who are experiencing housing need and homelessness - Election 2021 was a breakthrough. This election saw housing rise to be a dominant issue of the campaign for the first time ever. People with lived experience secured a more prominent place in the halls of power, and the door opened to greater federal ambition on housing and homelessness.
Vote Housing was launched in June to push all political parties to support bold investments in affordable housing and ending homelessness. We were able to quickly establish a broad national coalition, put in place the infrastructure for a national campaign, and release a platform outlining the federal investments and policies needed to fix our housing crisis.
With your help, our campaign was able to:
- release a national poll demonstrating incredibly strong public support for housing investment and ending homelessness;
- garner over 200 endorsing organizations in addition to 20,000+ individual supporters;
- send over 55,000+ letters sent to candidates and party leaders - every candidate in every riding heard from Vote Housing and our supporters multiple times;
- recruit over 220+ volunteers from coast to coast to coast;
- send over 1,000 supporter kits across the country;
- reach over 1.2 million people through online and offline means;
- host a national housing debate with all five federal parties represented;
- earn the support of 17 Mayors across the country representing over 13 million Canadians; and,
- secure the support of the British Columbia Urban Mayors Caucus.
In the earliest days of the campaign, it became clear housing would be a key ballot issue. Housing was a constant discussion point in the mainstream media and online. All parties put forward substantive housing platforms including promises on housing supply, broad consensus on the need for a ‘For Indigenous, By Indigenous’ Urban Indigenous Housing Strategy covering urban, rural and northern communities and commitments to address homelessness.
Which brings us to Monday night. The Liberal Party was re-elected as a minority government, so they will need support from other parties in order to govern. This creates an opportunity for a sustained, collective, and effective national advocacy effort to protect and build on the gains we have made on housing policy in the last several years, to push for improvements to the National Housing Strategy, and to secure the investments and policy changes needed to end homelessness and fix our housing crisis.
In the coming days and weeks, the Vote Housing coalition will meet with federal officials to advance the priorities of the campaign. Specifically, the next government needs to:
Implement an urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing strategy containing both dedicated investments and an Indigenous-led governance structure. This was promised by most parties and must be an immediate priority of the new government. We will be pushing for a plan with timelines and targets, as well as significantly more resources than were promised.
Commit to the prevention and elimination of homelessness. The Liberal Party has committed to ending chronic homelessness. We will be pushing for a plan with timelines, targets and dedicated resources to make this promise a reality. We will also remind the government that ending chronic homelessness must be the first step to ending all homelessness.
Invest in the construction and operation and operation of a minimum of 50,000 units of supportive housing over a decade. The key to ending chronic homelessness is an adequate supply of supportive housing. There was little or no mention of this critical need in the campaign.
Build and acquire a minimum of 300,000 units of deeply affordable non-market, co-op and non-profit housing over a decade. All parties spoke of building more housing supply during the campaign, but what is specifically needed are bold investments to build more non-market co-operative and non-profit community housing, which can offer deep and permanent affordability. Equally, we need to help co-op and nonprofits to purchase existing affordable private market rental housing to protect these homes and ensure they remain affordable. Two party platforms committed to doing just this. Overall, we need to ensure the construction and acquisition of non-market housing keeps up with the need.
- Commit to the progressive realization of the right to housing. The progressive realization of the right to housing became law in Canada in the last Parliament, but key accountability mechanisms, specifically the Federal Housing Advocate, have not been put into place. The Liberals promised appointment of the Housing Advocate in their first 100 days. We will hold them to that promise. Importantly, the Liberals and the NDP also promised to tackle ‘renoviction’ and loss of affordable rental housing to financialization. Both the Greens and Liberals talked about acquisition. This is an incredibly important measure - no federal housing strategy can succeed if affordable market rental housing is lost faster than it can be replaced. Tackling financialization has to be an early priority of this Parliament. We must also see people with lived experience of homelessness and housing need, who were critical to our movement’s success, be included in the development of strategies and policies in these areas moving forward, something that was not articulated in any of the platforms.
- Implement an urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing strategy containing both dedicated investments and an Indigenous-led governance structure. This was promised by most parties and must be an immediate priority of the new government. We will be pushing for a plan with timelines and targets, as well as significantly more resources than were promised.
- Expand rental assistance for low-income households to reduce core housing need and prevent a wave of new homelessness resulting from the pandemic. Early in the campaign, we learned that nearly 5 million people were worried about paying rent at the beginning of September. This worry has not gone away, and if the government fails to take immediate measures to address housing affordability and the threat of eviction for low-income households, we risk facing a pandemic-driven wave of new homelessness in the months ahead. While National Housing Strategy programs have committed to rental assistance through the Federal Community Housing Initiative and the Canada Housing Benefit, Canada’s Community Housing Initiative has not been successful in securing rental assistance for low-income households in provincially administered non-profit and co-operative housing, and many Canadians need urgent rental assistance to remain stably housed.
Canada’s housing crisis and the unprecedented rise of homelessness were created by policy choices. Decades of work has proven that sustained, fearless and relentless advocacy has the power to change those policies. Vote Housing has demonstrated that Canadians want action from our new federal government and has helped create the conditions for meaningful progress.
On behalf of the campaign, thank you for your interest, support and action.
With your help and continued support, an end to homelessness and Canada’s housing crisis is not only possible, it’s within reach.