Warning: Social housing crisis ahead

Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press ran an important feature on a federal program that funds social housing across Canada, called the operating grants program (Rent hikes loom for thousands, August 16). The program covers part of the mortgage payments for housing agencies, but also part of the subsidy that allows agencies to provide subsidized rents for some suites. The issue has been a key concern for social housing activists across the country in recent years as the Federal government is planning to let these grants expire over the next 25 years.  CCPA covered this issue with a recent Facts Facts article by Sarah Cooper, The Loss of Subsidized Housing Through Expiring Operating Agreements.

CCPA housing researcher, Josh Brandon, responded to the Winnipeg Free Press with a letter to the editor, which was printed in part in today’s Letters section. The full text of the letter is printed below:

Re: Rent hikes loom for thousands

For most Manitoba homeowners, paying off your mortgage is a moment for celebration, but for some non-profit housing associations, it creates an unnecessary crisis. Along with the end of mortgage payments, federal subsidies to keep their units affordable also cease. The federal government is poised to save billions at the expense of hundreds of thousands of low-income Canadians who depend on social housing.

Market rents in Winnipeg and many other cities have been climbing steadily in recent years. Without government involvement in housing, thousands of Canadians will fall through the cracks. They will be at risk of homelessness, where they will put even greater strains on shelters, healthcare and other social systems

With so many families in critical housing need, it is unconscionable and economically short-sighted that funding is being cut for housing programs. If anything, federal investment in social housing should increase. Ottawa needs to step up and do its share rather than offload its responsibilities to other levels of government.

Josh Brandon, Winnipeg