BUDGET 2017: THE NDP REMAINS CAUTIOUS ABOUT LIBERAL HOUSING INVESTMENTS

OTTAWA — The NDP welcomes the new funding for housing announced in the 2017 budget, but remains sceptical. The Liberal plan encompasses a wide range of measures, but NDP Housing Critic Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga) is reserving judgment, given how many promises the Liberals have broken already.

“Sure, $11 billion over 11 years is a nice big number, but when you look at the budget more closely, you see that 90% of those funds won’t be spent until after the next election,” she said. “The housing crisis can’t wait until after the next election. We need funds now to break ground on construction projects.”

In Canada, 1.5 million households are living in core housing need, waiting lists for social housing are longer than ever and social housing stock is deteriorating. However, the budget includes nothing to address these issues this year, and allocates only $10 million next year.

MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet asked, “What can be built with $10 million? Are we supposed to have a contest or pick a name out of a hat to decide which city gets to build a new social housing triplex? Why doesn’t the budget propose measures to help people living without adequate housing now?”

The federal government’s new $5-billion National Housing Fund looks like it will be an interesting tool. However, no amount is explicitly allocated to social and community housing or to building new housing units. Instead, the 2017 budget uses convoluted wording to talk about “affordable” housing.

“We’ll have to wait until the National Housing Strategy is launched ‘later this year’ to learn how the funds will be allocated, so for now we are still in the dark,” she said. “It isn’t clear at all.”

She also pointed out the lack of clear guidelines on energy-efficient construction and renovation. A victim of its own success, the ecoENERGY program was scrapped by the former Conservative government. In addition, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet mentioned that the Liberals blew their opportunity to send a strong message by stimulating job creation in the residential construction sector, helping lower-income families save money on their energy bills and fighting climate change.

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