PRESS RELEASE: Canada has opportunity with NHS
Canada has opportunity to show human rights leadership with National Housing Strategy
November 22, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA – The federal government announced details of its much-anticipated National Housing Strategy (NHS) today to mark National Housing Day, providing information on Canada’s plan to reduce homelessness and housing insecurity over ten years.
Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a national anti-poverty and human rights organization, welcomes the launch of the NHS and applauds the steps the government has taken to recognize that housing is a human right in the strategy—the first such acknowledgement of the right to housing in a policy context in Canada. CWP and other civil society organizations have long called for a national strategy to address the crisis levels of homelessness and housing instability in communities across the country, the state of which prompted the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) to characterize it as a “national emergency” in 2006 and a persistent crisis in 2016.
The right to housing is protected under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Canada ratified in 1976. In the 2016 review of the country by the CESCR, Canada was criticized for its lack of rights-based measures to address homelessness and urged “to develop and effectively implement a human-rights based national strategy on housing.”
“This is an incredible moment for Canada and our leadership on human rights. The recognition of the right to housing in the NHS and the adoption of rights-based approach in the strategy are major steps forward as we work to end homelessness and housing insecurity across the country,” said Leilani Farha, Executive Director of CWP.
The statement from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Employment and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, today highlighted key elements of the NHS, including $40 billion in funding over 10 years – some of which is to be matched by provinces and territories. The strategy also includes plans to create 100,000 new units in total, at least 30% of which will be designated for affordable housing, defined as 80% of market rent, refurbishment of 300,000 existing units, and a Canada Housing Benefit, which will roll out in 2020. In the 2017 Alternative Federal Budget, CWP and other civil society organizations called for an investment of $3 billion in new funding for social, affordable, and supportive housing programmes to bring investment in housing creation back to the levels of the early 1980s.
“Significant financial investment in housing is crucial for the three million households who are precariously-housed and the 35,000 people who are homeless on any given night in Canada,” said CWP’s Deputy Director, Harriett McLachlan. “The question now is: will 3,000 new affordable units each year be enough to address our urgent housing crisis – especially if the portable housing benefit isn’t set to be implemented until 2020?”
A unique element in the NHS is the announcement of a new Federal Housing Advocate. While details are still to be clarified, the Advocate could play a pivotal role providing people from marginalized communities and lived experience of housing insecurity a way to identify the systemic barriers they face in accessing adequate housing, and reflect those experiences back to policymakers.
“The creation of the Federal Housing Advocate shows the door is open and that we have an opportunity to ensure the NHS truly uses a human rights approach,” said Ms Farha. “If the Advocate is independent, it could offer a critical accountability mechanism for people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage to access their rights.”
CWP also awaits the Indigenous Housing Strategy that will follow the NHS and should provide essential funding and programmes for Canada’s most underserved and inadequately-housed Indigenous communities.
About Canada Without Poverty
Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, under the name National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). For over 40 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp-csp.ca.
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