The recent 2016 Federal Budget will inject over $1.5B into social housing over the next 3 years. Below is a summary of earmarked funding, with a focus on new construction of affordable housing, which most concerns my work.
1. Budget 2016 proposes to double current federal funding to under the Investment in Affordable Housing initiative, to $504.4 million over two years, starting in 2016–17. A portion of this money would go to construction of new affordable housing units, although the majority of it will expand on the current focus on renovation and repair of existing affordable housing, as well as measures to support housing affordability such as rent supplements. Under this funding block, provinces and territories will need to match federal investments 50:50.
2. Budget 2016 provides $200.7 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to support the construction, repair and adaption of affordable housing for seniors. Given the dearth of seniors housing, and the specific requirements related to seniors housing design and programming, it’s likely that this money could go to new construction. Also, provinces will not be required to cost-match these investments. This appears to be a sweet spot for new affordable housing
3. The budget earmarks $739 million for First Nations, Inuit and northern housing. This includes funding for renovation and construction of new shelters on reserve over the next three years.
Finally, the federal budget includes a $208.3 million Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund, to be administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, specifically focused on construction of 4,000 new affordable housing rental units over five years. Funding for this measure is over and above investments in 1-3, above.
Beyond the funding summarized above, the federal government has committed to consult with provinces and territories, Indigenous and other communities, and key stakeholders in the coming year to develop a long-awaited National Housing Strategy.
Only a portion of the above funding money would go to construction of new affordable housing units. The majority of it will expand on the current focus of funding renovation and repair of existing affordable housing, as well as measures to support housing affordability such as rent supplements. This funding approach copies what we have been doing for the past two decades, patching and repairing existing poorly-constructed and energy-intensive housing stock. We need to be smarter about how this infrastructure funding is spent in order to avoid future problems.
The budget is weak when it comes to promoting sustainable development. The budget states that investing in affordable housing will prioritize “sustainable development” and promote “self-reliance”. But beyond this vague reference, there is no mention of significantly reducing the climate-specific impact of buildings and built form.
The budget states that investments in social housing will prioritize “sustainable development” and promote “self-reliance” but, beyond this vague reference, there is no mention of significantly reducing the climate-specific impact of buildings and built form.
‘The question many would ask is “can we promote ‘low cost’ and ‘sustainable’ development at the same time. Consensus for many years has been that sustainable building costs more. However, a growing percentage of the building sector, including myself, is now convinced that the Passive House (aka Passivhaus) building methodology is the key to accomplishing ultra-low energy and affordability. How? See my recent white paper Business Case for Passive House based on my own passive house experience in the affordable housing sector plus recent industry data and trends. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming post that lays out why Passive House is the only building methodology that can deliver the kind of energy efficiency to meet the necessary goals for affordable housing.