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Five billion to convince the provinces to adopt federal housing priorities

Photo: Darren Calabrese The Canadian Press Justin Trudeau also acknowledged in response to a question that these are “conditions” that he will impose on the provinces, but nevertheless insisted that “of course” he will work in “partnership” with Quebec.

Michel Saba – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

April 2, 2024

  • Canada

Faced with the housing crisis, Ottawa is putting $5 billion on the table to convince the provinces to adopt some of its housing priorities, including the tenants' charter of rights which the Quebec government wants nothing to do with, and imposes a deadline for receiving the funds: January 1, 2025.

“We are taking major measures to ensure that the prices of houses and condos become decent again by increasing the supply of housing quickly,” summarized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday in Halifax, alongside his Minister of Housing, Sean Fraser.

The sum will be paid from a new fund of 6 billion aimed at building and upgrading housing-related infrastructure, such as those necessary for the supply of drinking water, the treatment of rainwater and solid waste management.

The remaining billion will be paid to municipalities in order to respond to “urgent needs” in terms of infrastructure which will make it possible to “directly” create housing, specifies the federal government.

And Ottawa warns the provinces that do not sign an agreement by the “deadline” of January 1, 2025 that the funds dedicated to it “will be transferred to the municipal component”. The territories will have three additional months.

Mr. Trudeau also bluntly acknowledged in response to a question that these are “conditions” that he will impose on the provinces, but nevertheless insisted that “of course” he will work in “partnership” with Quebec.

The Canadian Tenants' Bill of Rights that Ottawa announced it would create last week would require landlords to provide a “clear history” of apartment rents so tenants can negotiate “fairly.” It also aims to establish a standard lease on a national scale.

However, Quebec recently adopted its Bill 31 on housing, and rejected the idea of ​​a rent register, judging the measure too expensive.

Questioned on the subject several times, the Minister of Public Services and Supply, Jean-Yves Duclos, did not want to clearly say what would happen to Quebec's share of the money if the province refused to implement places the federal rent register. “This is funding that comes with fairly clear expectations that this money must be used to finance the infrastructure necessary for municipalities to be able to build more housing,” he said at a press briefing in Quebec, while acknowledging that it was a provincial jurisdiction. His office later indicated that it would speak with the province.

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Right of withdrawal with full compensation

The reaction of the Quebec government was not long in coming. In writing, Ministers Jean-François Roberge (Canadian Relations) and France-Élaine Duranceau (Housing) reiterated that there was no question of the federal government interfering in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. “Quebec must be able to exercise its right of withdrawal with full compensation and without any conditions,” they said in a joint declaration.

Annoyed, the Minister of Canadian Relations, Jean-François Roberge, immediately replied that the Legault government will not tolerate a “new invasion” in its areas of jurisdiction. Ottawa wants to “arrive with new conditions, […] meddle in our affairs,” he protested.

In this negotiation, Ottawa will also require municipalities to build more intermediate housing, including duplexes, townhouses and other apartment buildings, adopting changes to the National Building Code aimed at supporting more accessible housing , affordable and environmentally friendly, the use of the federal housing design catalog which will soon be made public, and the implementation of a buyers' charter of rights.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many of his ministers had planned no less than a dozen press conferences across the country for Tuesday to unveil these housing measures, which they intend to include in the next federal budget due in two weeks.

The other major measure revealed is the addition of an additional $400 million to the Fund to accelerate housing construction. The amounts are intended in particular to encourage municipalities to “reduce their administrative burden” and invest in affordable housing. Ottawa calculates that this will “accelerate” the construction of 12,000 housing units in three years.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser indicated that Ottawa will unveil its plan “in the coming weeks” to tackle the housing crisis. It will have three pillars: building more houses, ensuring that we help the most vulnerable and measures to make it easier to rent or buy a house.

As part of his pre-budget announcements, Mr. Trudeau had revealed with great fanfare the day before that the next federal budget will include funding for a national school food program which will aim to provide meals to 400 000 more children per year across the country.

Tram or third link ?

During his announcement in Quebec, Jean-Yves Duclos indicated that his government expected provinces and municipalities to densify housing in areas where there is public transportation infrastructure.

However, the minister did not fail to point out that “Quebec has fallen behind other cities” in terms of public transportation and that his government's priorities in terms of transportation were “almost entirely focused on public transport”.

“All of this should help the government of Quebec, based on the report from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), to find the right modern transportation formula for Quebec City,” said he said.

A few months ago, the Legault government took the tramway project out of the hands of Quebec City and entrusted it to the CDPQ. However, the Caisse is also looking at ways to “improve mobility and fluidity in the Metropolitan Community of Quebec, particularly between the two shores”. According to Minister Bernard Drainville, it is already certain that the Caisse will present a project for a third link in June.

The federal government has never hidden its preference for the tramway project over that of the third link.

“Real Hell”

In a press release, the Conservative Party of Canada deplored that Canadians are experiencing “real hell” in terms of housing “after eight years under Justin Trudeau”. They criticize the liberals for persisting with “failed policies” by announcing billions for “photo ops”.

Pierre Poilievre's troops cite in support a Royal Bank study published the same day which shows that a household earning the median income devotes 63.5% of its income to paying the costs of owning an average home, compared to 39.3% when the Liberals came to power in October 2015.

At the New Democratic Party, housing critic Jenny Kwan not only blamed the Liberals, but also the Conservatives for “this mess” by “cutting funding for social housing and cooperatives and entrusting management to private developers who buy affordable housing, raise prices and evict tenants due to renovation.

“Despite claiming to want to make things better, Pierre Poilievre was in power for nine years and during that time people lost 800,000 affordable housing units,” she wrote. This figure increased by an additional 370,000 housing units under Justin Trudeau. »

For its part, the Bloc Québécois affirmed that “once again, Justin Trudeau’s government is jumping headlong into Quebec’s jurisdiction.”

“Ottawa must transfer the sums to Quebec, unconditionally and quickly, so that we can build housing and infrastructure rather than multiplying programs and pitfalls,” indicated Bloc MP Denis Trudel.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116