Mayor Tory, Councillor Bailão, ladies and gentlemen; good morning and thank you for inviting me to join you today.
It’s quite appropriate that we are meeting in Regent Park. The revitalization of this once troubled neighbourhood into a vibrant mixed-income community is a great example of how innovation and collaboration can lead to better housing for Canadians.
I also want to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
We are here to discuss an issue that is of great importance in Toronto and communities right across the country: how to improve access to affordable housing.
This is a key priority for our Government. We believe that all Canadians deserve access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford.
When it comes to building an inclusive society where all Canadians share the same opportunities to succeed, housing matters.
The Government of Canada does not have all the answers. Nor do we have all the tools needed to address persistent housing problems.
We have said from the start that collaboration is essential to achieving our goals of inclusive and sustainable development.
This is certainly the case for housing.
With input from all of you and many others, we are developing a National Housing Strategy that covers the entire housing continuum, from homelessness, to shelters, to transitional housing, to social housing, to affordable market rental housing to market homeownership.
As you know, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is leading a comprehensive consultation process to hear from a broad range of stakeholders about how we can improve housing, socio-economic and environmental outcomes for Canadians.
In fact, I am joined today by Evan Siddall, the President of CMHC, as part of these discussions. He tells me we are very close to where he used to live here in Toronto, in Cabbagetown.
Earlier this month CMHC hosted housing experts during three days of roundtable discussions in Ottawa, focusing on themes ranging from housing finance and data to social inclusion and sustainability.
We sought the advice and input of national housing stakeholders at several other separate events in the last few weeks, and have held roundtables outside of Ottawa on Indigenous housing challenges in both urban and remote communities.
The unique housing needs and challenges in the North will be explored at similar event in the coming days and weeks.
And to ensure that we hear the voices of vulnerable people, focus groups are being held with those who have been homeless or are living in subsidized housing, newcomers to Canada, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities, among others.
CMHC is also working closely with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on parallel consultations that focus on Indigenous housing outcomes on reserve and the particular issues faced by First Nations communities.
Provinces and territories, who are our key partners in developing the National Housing Strategy, are also providing input.
As well, we have sought the views of a broad base of Canadians through an aggressive social media campaign.
More than 4,700 Canadians have taken the time to complete an online survey on the National Housing Strategy web site, Let’sTalkHousing.ca.
One hundred and thirty written submissions have been received through the web site, and more than 1,000 ideas have been submitted through social media channels using the hashtag #LetsTalkHousing.
I have also met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and a number of mayors – including Mayor Tory – to discuss housing challenges and opportunities in their communities.
We are consulting – and we are listening – because housing is such an important component of our Government’s overall approach to strengthening the middle class, promoting inclusive growth for Canadians, and helping to lift more people out of poverty.
When the consultations wrap up next month, we will digest the vast amounts of information we are receiving – including the City of Toronto’s submission – to develop key pillars for the National Housing Strategy.
On November 22nd, in celebration of National Housing Day, I will release a report on what we heard and outline next steps toward establishing a shared vision for housing in Canada.
The development of a National Housing Strategy – the first in four decades – gives us an opportunity to chart a new path for housing in Canada.
But there is also a need for immediate action. There are pressing problems that need to be addressed while we take the time to develop new approaches for the future.
That’s why Budget 2016 included $2.3 billion in new funding to improve access to more affordable housing for Canadians.
We are providing targeted support to those who need it most and creating good jobs that help grow Canada’s economy in a clean and sustainable way.
Here in Ontario, more than $640 million in new funding will be jointly invested by the federal and provincial governments over the next two years to support the housing needs of Ontarians.
This includes a doubling of federal funding under the Investment in Affordable Housing, which is being matched by the province to build, renovate and provide critical affordable housing across the province. This is in addition to the $320 million in joint funding already committed for the IAH over the next two years.
Under the Investment in Affordable Housing, provinces and territories have the flexibility to design and deliver programs that are tailored to address local housing needs and pressures.
I am pleased to say that the City of Toronto will receive $154 million of this additional funding, including $115 million from the Government of Canada.
Minister Ballard will have more to say about this in a few minutes.
Budget 2016 also provides significant additional funding to increase affordable housing for seniors, housing in Northern communities, to support the renovation and retrofit of the existing social housing stock, and to build and renovate shelters for victims of family violence.
We are taking steps to ensure that low-income households living in non-profit and co-operative social housing projects where operating agreements will expire over the next two years can continue to live in their rent-geared-to-income units.
Up to $30 million is available to renew subsidies for all federally administered social housing until the end of March 2018. This funding is sufficient to continue to support all CMHC-administered projects where operating agreements are ending over the next two years.
CMHC estimates that just over $1 million in subsidies will be offered to eligible co-ops in Toronto with agreements expiring by March 1, 2017.
The doubling of federal spending under the Investment in Affordable Housing also provides a significant source of funding for provinces and territories to extend subsidies for social housing projects they administer.
These investments are a transitional measure to bridge the gap for the next two years, leading to a new approach under the National Housing Strategy.
As you know, our Government is also proceeding with the prepayment flexibility.
We are providing $150 million over four years to allow co-ops and non-profit housing providers to prepay their long-term, non-renewable mortgages with CMHC without penalty.
Allowing these mortgages to be prepaid without penalty will strengthen the capacity of housing providers to continue to deliver affordable housing.
This new flexibility offers eligible housing providers the opportunity to lower their mortgage expenses, finance repairs with private capital and transition to more self-sustaining operating models.
Toronto Community Housing Corporation is one of the beneficiaries of this program, having already been approved for more than $10 million for 2016-2017.
I should also mention that Seed Funding is available through CMHC’s Affordable Housing Centre to support activities that facilitate the creation of new affordable housing units, as well as to assist existing housing projects in remaining viable and affordable.
But however much we may be investing, our resources will always be limited. Because of this, our Government believes that innovation is important to building a strong and vibrant housing sector for Canada.
To that end, Budget 2016 includes two important initiatives that support the construction of affordable rental housing, which is an important option for many Torontonians and other Canadians across the country.
Through the Rental Housing Financing Initiative, up to $2.5 billion in low-cost loans will be made available over five years to municipalities and housing developers during the earliest, riskiest phase of developing affordable rental housing.
And just over $200 million is being provided for an Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund, which I am pleased to announce is being launched by CMHC today.
Through the Innovation Fund, CMHC will offer financial support for useful ideas for building a more inclusive society, new funding models and innovative building techniques that revolutionize the rental housing sector.
Funding is available to eligible individuals, corporations and organizations that want to build affordable rental housing in Canada in response to demonstrated community need. Complete details are available on CMHC’s web site at cmhc.ca/innovationfund.
The Fund is expected to help create up to 4,000 new affordable units over five years, reducing the number of Canadians living in housing need and the reliance on long-term government subsidies.
Together, these two programs should offer some exciting opportunities for developers and investors in rental housing in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada.
Our Budget 2016 investments will go a long way in helping Canadians meet their housing needs, but money alone is not the solution.
Housing affordability is a top-of-mind concern in many Canadian cities, with Toronto and Vancouver at the top of the list.
Young families are increasingly worried that they have been priced out of the market.
Older, established homeowners find themselves wondering whether homeownership will become unattainable to their children and grandchildren.
For their part, economists and financial commentators are concerned that escalating home prices and rising mortgage debt could present a financial risk to individual households and to the economy at large should there be a rise in interest rates or a downturn in the economy.
I share all of these concerns.
Our Government has already taken action to contain risk in housing markets.
Last year, Finance Minister Morneau increased the minimum down payment required on the portion of homes valued over $500,000.
And earlier this year, he created a Working Group that is conducting a “deep dive” examination of the factors affecting the supply and demand for housing, the issue of affordability, and the stability of the housing market.
CMHC is supporting the Working Group, which includes officials from the Government of Canada, the Provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, and the cities of Toronto and Vancouver.
In parallel, last June, I also mandated CMHC to conduct a thorough review of the root causes of the rapid and continuing rise in property prices in several of Canada’s major urban centres, Toronto included.
They need to analyse data on likely causes for the surge in property prices and gather the missing data essential for informed decision-making on the matter.
The results of this collaborative effort will help ensure that any decisions taken by the Government are well informed by data and evidence.
I want to thank Mayor Tory again for inviting me to be here today. I’m looking forward to our discussions and to receiving the City of Toronto’s submission to the National Housing Strategy.
We wish to get it right, and the best way to do that is by engaging in a vigorous dialogue, by challenging the status quo and by working together.