THERE is an unprecedented focus on timely and necessary housing initiatives on the horizon for the City of Surrey, says Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. The Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, created in 2007 with capital from the City’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, has recently announced the allocation of $1 million for innovative housing project proposals. In the recent budget update, the provincial government has announced new funding for both affordable rental and supportive housing and the City is actively working with the Province to secure urgently required supportive housing units for those most in need. Additionally, the federal government’s expected fall launch of a National Housing Strategy (NHS) is a once in a generation opportunity to transform affordable housing in Canada.
“Safe, affordable housing is the bedrock of the liveable, competitive cities we aspire to build. Yet, a million and half Canadian households can’t access a decent home they can afford and some 235,000 will experience homelessness this year. Housing has become less affordable at virtually every income level,” said Hepner a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus (BCMC).
The BCMC has laid out detailed solutions to Canada’s affordable housing crisis in their submission to the federal government: National Housing Strategy: Getting it Right, which calls for Ottawa to prioritize repairing and building new affordable and social housing and to leverage local innovation to ensure long-term sustainability.
“The federal government is listening and have responded in Budget 2017 with a pledge of $15 billion for the NHS. Getting the Strategy right is the critical next step. And while our suggestions are extensive, our core recommendations comes down to common sense,” added Hepner.
The federal agreements that developed much of Canada’s 600,000 social housing homes didn’t adequately account for long-term repairs, and today’s non-profit providers generally lack the revenue to support financing to get them done. In Surrey’s case, the City did not significantly benefit from the nation-wide federal investments in social housing that ended in the early 1990s, prior to Surrey’s transformation into a major urban centre. In the last 25 years, the population has more than doubled and continues to expand at a rapid rate. There is a pressing need for new social and affordable housing stock in Surrey, and in Metro Vancouver.
“We are at an intersection of mutual agreement across governments and sectors on the paramount importance of housing. This is a unique opportunity to set the table right for decades to come and we believe that remarkable progress is possible. Surrey is ready to bring our local expertise to the table and play a meaningful role, in partnership with all orders of government, to ensure we get it right,” said Hepner.
The City of Surrey is a member of the Federation of Canadians Municipalities’ (FCM) Big City Mayors’ Caucus (BCMC). BCMC represents 22 of Canada’s biggest cities, offering a forum for policy development on a range of issues affecting our largest centres. Through FCM, the mayors’ caucus partners with the federal government in nation-building through city-building.