Federal government’s message to homeless people: Get a good tarp, a sleeping bag, and prepare to die young

Today’s Federal budget says $11.2 billion will be spent on housing over the next 11 years. Mainstream media has celebrated the housing budget. Toronto Star says cities are one of the winners because of the housing budget. Huffington Post’s headline was “Liberals Dedicate Billions For Affordable Housing” and Global News called it a “Big investment in affordable housing.“

In fact, this budget will guarantee that homelessness continues to increase.

None of these articles actually analyze what the $11.2 billion investment means in terms of actually addressing the housing crisis and meeting the needs of the tens of thousands of people in desperate need of housing, including over 4000 homeless people in Metro Vancouver.

Breaking down the housing budget

If you divide the $11.2 billion over 11 years, it boils down to only $1 billion a year to be spent across the whole country. If the $1 billion were all spent on building new social housing, it would be enough to build about 5,000 social housing units across the country. BC alone needs 10,000 units a year.

This budget sets aside approximately $3.2 billion over the next 11 years to provinces and territories to include for construction of new affordable housing units, renovation, and repair of existing housing, rent subsidies and other measures to make housing more affordable. $3.2 billion means about $290 million / year for the whole country or $38 million / year for BC which has about 13% of Canada’s population. This would boil down to about $5 million for Vancouver, or about 25 social housing units if it were all spent on building new social housing.

Out of the $11.2 billion, only $2.1 billion over 11 years will be spent towards sheltering and housing homeless people. This boils down to $190M per year for the whole country, $25M a year for BC and only $3 M for Vancouver which would only be enough to house 15 homeless people, out of 1847 homeless people counted last year.

Budget 2017 proposes $225 million over the next 11 years to provide financial support for Indigenous Peoples living off-reserve. This boils down to about 20.4 million per year across the whole country or a mere 102 new social housing units per year across the country.

Budget maintains unnecessary perks for the wealthy

Initial money to pay for the social housing that homeless people need could come from closing billions of dollars in tax loopholes that benefit primarily the richest 10 percent and adding taxes for the wealthy. These include taxing income from capital gains at the same rate as employment income ($10B), ending fossil fuel subsidies ($1.5B), ending corporate tax dodging and making corporations pay their fair share ($13.6B), and bringing in a wealth and inheritance tax ($4.8 B)

What we really need

What the federal government needs to do is to first calculate what the housing need is across the country. How many people are homeless? How many people are paying over half of their income on rent and or living inadequate or overcrowded housing conditions at the brink of homeless? How many people are in the social housing wait lists? The housing budget should be calculated based on meeting these needs.  Clearly, this is not what the federal government has done.

This budget is an $11.2 billion dollar, decade-long recipe for escalating homelessness and housing insecurity.

All we really need to know

Homelessness people have half the life expectancy than other BC residents and providing housing for homeless people is cheaper than keeping them on the street. With these two facts in mind, why is the federal government refusing to step up and make a significant contribution to ending homelessness?

Read more at: www.carnegieaction.org/housing-budgets