I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 15 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021, and the proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.
I'm going to dispense with the other standard format directions that we normally give at the start of a meeting, because every single person here has heard them many times before.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, the committee will commence its study of the rapid housing initiative. The study will examine all aspects of the proposed program, with specific focus paid to the number and location of units acquired.
I welcome our witness, Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, for housing, to begin our discussion with five minutes of opening remarks followed by questions.
Parliamentary Secretary Vaughan, you have the floor.
I'm appearing here in part because the minister whom I committed to try to get to this meeting unfortunately has a COVID committee meeting and is also helping to initiate and start the new housing council as part of the national housing strategy. Also, with Black History Month, he has multiple bookings. I really do apologize, but I have worked very closely with him to develop this policy and deliver it, and I hope there are no questions you ask me that I won't be able to provide an answer to. Luckily, that very mischievous member from Spadina—Fort York isn't here to cause me trouble, so I'm in good shape on that front.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking to you from the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, who hold the treaty on this land, but it's also the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Huron-Wendat. From across Turtle Island, and now in fact from around the world, it has been a gathering place for many people from many nations for generations.
We are now in to the 11th month of the pandemic, and to understand where rapid housing fits in to our response to homelessness during the pandemic we need to turn the clock back to almost a year ago when we realized the scale and the absolute devastating impact COVID-19 presented, both as a possible risk and, in fact, for too many Canadians, a reality, in terms of loss of life and hardship that have flowed from this unprecedented historic pandemic.
We immediately understood the impact on vulnerable populations. Especially as we watched COVID surface in Europe and in New York City in particular, we saw the impact it was having on homeless populations, people in precarious housing, people sleeping rough, and a whole series of populations that didn't have secure housing. We knew that we were going to have to act quickly because housing was effectively the medicine that was being prescribed to people. It was one thing to be told to stay home, but if you didn't have a home, that was medical advice that you just wouldn't be able to follow. What we immediately did was to work on the existing programs to see where they could be fortified, and this is the groundwork that, as I said, led to the rapid housing initiative.
Immediately, we more than doubled the resources for Reaching Home and removed many of the rules and restrictions and regulations to allow local communities to respond to COVID with as much flexibility and force as possible. We also then set up a stakeholder meeting, which we have been holding on a regular basis since, with our Reaching Home partners. Reaching Home, of course, is the housing program that addresses homelessness in the federal national housing strategy.
On top of that we've also been working on a weekly basis with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness to talk to front-line workers to take a look at the research and the data they've been calling in to make sure that not only are the Reaching Home dollars working hard, but also that for housing solutions that were coming forward and being proposed for isolation, for safety reasons, for medical treatment, for people with addictions in particular who are difficult to isolate, we started marshal resources immediately as the pandemic seemed to project a longer and longer timeline into the future. Work on the rapid housing initiative actually started last March. It took us time to understand what the sector was asking of us, how the sector was responding, how different cities and different communities were responding, and we built the rapid housing initiative around the front-line experience of many of these organizations.
We also know that precarious populations, or populations that live in precarious environments, such as indigenous communities in urban settings, and also racialized communities, which were also going to be impacted differently. In response to this, we made a call to our partners through the Reaching Home network, in the indigenous, northern, rural and the designated community stream, to show us what they would acquire quickly, if they could, to help address COVID in an emergency response, but also not just to flow dollars through these communities to deal with COVID, but if there were a way we could pool those dollars to create permanent solutions to homelessness as we addressed the COVID crisis.
In fact, we got a very strong response from different corners of the country and with that data went back to CMHC and budget in the summertime and working with the FCM, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and in particular the Big City Mayors' Caucus, where homelessness tends to have the highest impact and the largest municipal exposure, as well as our provincial-territorial-indigenous government counterparts, and we came forward with a program to do a couple of things.
One was to bolster and reinvest in Reaching Home, and $236.7 million was announced in the fall as additional dollars for this year. Moreover, in the fall economic statement an additional $299 million was forecast for the next year as a starting point so that the system would know what was coming from the federal government to help them plan and coordinate their communities' response to homelessness.
Second, we could see, certainly in major cities, that renting hotels was becoming extraordinarily expensive, costing up to $3,000 a month in some cases, which could actually buy you a condominium in Toronto or Vancouver. We thought these dollars could be better spent acquiring those properties and acquiring distressed assets and building modular housing, as opposed to simply renting emergency temporary shelter. We formulated a program. We—the and I—moved it through cabinet and in September launched the rapid housing initiative. It's a billion-dollar initiative. The funds are forecast to be expended by March 31.
Based on research we had done, we broke it into two streams.
One was the designated community stream, in which there are 15 major centres. CMHC is with me today and they can break down for you some of the formulas that were used.
The second stream was on a project-by-project application basis and is open to all communities right across Canada, including indigenous-led housing programs and indigenous-led programs that are on reserves. There was a wide open throw that included all major housing systems and all major providers to try to get to the rapid housing initiative.
To date, we have closed the application process, but I can tell you that for the major city streams, there are a couple of cities where we are just finalizing details of the transfer agreements, but the properties have been more or less secured. To date, we have executed the city stream. Almost every city now has an agreement in place. In Toronto, for example, their $203.3 million will secure 540 units of housing, some of it modular and some of acquired. Again, the details are for CMHC to share with you.
Even in Montreal and Quebec—
The rapid housing initiative is aimed squarely at chronically homeless and people with the highest acuity on the street and in the shelter system. They require not just deeper forms of subsidy to make the housing affordable for them, but also the supports to live in it.
The co-investment fund is about building out the below-market, non-profit side of the housing agenda, as well as some market rents to blend neighbourhoods because we're not looking to build single-demographic scaled buildings. We like mixed buildings. We think that's the better model for housing. That's what the housing sector, cities and communities have told us.
The goal of the co-investment fund is very different from the goal of the rapid housing initiative, but you need both to solve homelessness. People, as they heal, graduate into greater self-sufficiency. They graduate into different forms of housing as their families and incomes change and their health, quite frankly, is improved. We need to make sure that every single bead on this bracelet is connected to the string and that people have the ability to make choices based on their circumstances.
While I share the frustration about how slow it's been sometimes for some applications to get through, the co-investment is a critical part of building the full continuum of housing right from shelters in the street all the way to first-time home buyers. You need to make sure that every part of that system is proportionately addressed, regionalized and made local to cities based on population and demographic data to make sure that you're addressing the full spectrum of housing needs across the country.
You will not solve homelessness with just supportive housing. You also need co-op and social housing. You also need to get people who can afford to purchase out of rental housing, so affordable market rental housing doesn't back into the other systems. I would argue that the move to end homelessness, which is the 's initiative in this term of Parliament, is profound, but it requires a very focused, very intentional investment into supportive housing. Rapid housing is the first major step in that direction in the history of the country.
As I said, we are already working on rapid housing 2.0 and looking at how we can embed those services more strongly to make it more successful.
I can talk about Toronto most specifically because I've had a view to city council's work on it and the 540 units. They were part of the consultation process and had started to line up assets they were renting that they had options to purchase on. When rapid housing came in, they simply bought those units. The rent in those units went from almost $3,000 a month down to about $1,500 a month instead.
That has allowed the city to roll those savings into a further extension of programs and provision of service on site. It's been very much focused on those populations made vulnerable by COVID who have been subjected to decades of neglect around the absence of a supportive housing program. It set us up for much more success in the coming weeks and months.
The deployment of those dollars was virtually immediate. Within weeks of signing those agreements, cities were announcing the acquisition of assets and moving people in.
On a modular housing basis, it wasn't tied to rapid housing, but in the city of Toronto there was a six-month turnaround on two 60-unit projects from flat ground—from acquiring the property—to actually moving people in. It was done in less than six months.
That was done under the co-investment fund by coincidence, but it's the modular housing piece of this that is also showing great promise. It is also a very good economic development tool to set up these factories in remote parts of the country to develop the rural housing program that Mr. Vis talked about.
There have been some really good findings from this that have been drawn from the quickness, but also the nimbleness of our municipal partners.
We have extraordinary partners in the cities and in front- line services, and they have been waiting for this kind of program for a long time.
In the city of Saskatoon, for example, we've seen four applications come forward without the city being involved, and what's clear to us is that if we had gotten the city the money, those four projects would probably be under way.
One of the learnings from this is that we need to expand the direct relationship with cities in delivering these dollars, both because of the way that money can quickly arrive in those cities, and also in the way in it can be deployed more quickly.
That said, not every city is as strong as every other city. In some cities indigenous populations don't have a seat at the table, and in others they are leading the programs, like they are in Vancouver and Regina.
It is also showing us where Reaching Home as well as the national housing strategy have some limitations, but it's also showing us the reward of working with front-line services and cities directly to deliver support to the most vulnerable Canadians.
Thank you for appearing as a witness, Mr. Vaughan.
I will focus on the $1-billion rapid housing initiative, the funding for which was provided in two streams. As you mentioned, the initiative is now finished.
Our committee's mandate is not really about understanding the objectives that brought about the initiative. Clearly, no one can say that $1 billion does not meet certain needs. When it comes to affordable and safe housing, you know as well as we do that all sectors face urgent needs. This is an attempt to meet those needs in the best possible way.
Instead, my questions will focus on the rational objectives behind how the large city stream's funding was allocated. If I understand correctly, the major determinants were the needs and the rate of homelessness.
For example, Quebec, with almost one-quarter of the population of Canada, has two projects under the large city stream: one for Montreal, and one for Quebec City. Other large cities with the same needs could have used the stream as well. The funding provided accounted for approximately 12% of the total amount. I agree with you; homelessness is not proportional to population size, but it still appears that some have been left behind.
Under what criteria did Quebec's two large cities receive only 12% of the funding?
The two major indicators...the gap between social assistance and the average market rent in major cities.
First, we looked at where housing needs were going to be the most exaggerated and, therefore, the most critical to address quickly to get people into shelter and to keep people safe. Therefore, if you're in a community with virtually no homelessness, the chances of scoring high on that were very low. If you have a city like Toronto where you have a homeless population of close to 9,000 people who are on the streets, in comparison with Montreal, where the point-in-time counts usually come back at just under 1,000, you're going to see a differential in the distribution of dollars based on the number of people who are expressing that need.
The second criterion we looked at was the point-in-time count, where we did the last round of counts across the country to understand exactly where the populations were centred. I have to give Quebec full credit here. Their housing program is one of the strongest in the country. B.C. gives them a good run for their money, but that's only been recently.
When you take a look at the point-in-time counts in Montreal and Quebec City and other major cities—Laval and Gatineau, for example—you see that they are much lower in total number, so the emergency need to push money immediately to keep people safe with housing was not as pronounced in Quebec as it was in other parts of the country. Hence, the resources were proportionalized in that way.
That being said, when we looked at the criteria, they still scored fairly high in the rankings—they're in the top of the second tier of the numbers. We wanted to see how they spent the money, how that money flowed through the Quebec housing accord, which was recently signed and which also sees this money transferred to Quebec and then to cities in a different way. We needed to see how the dollars were spent, how they addressed the population before we came back to rapid housing 2.0 to achieve our goal of eliminating homelessness everywhere.
That's the way it was formulated. We looked at a list of six, 10, 15 and 25 cities, and at what a project-by-project application would look like.
Before we get to the next wave of funding, we want to take the learnings from these fundings and adjust it based on observations like your own, where you said that it didn't work in these smaller communities and how do we address those? Is it through bulk funding, is it city-by-city funding, or is it a specific kind of funding that needs to be changed to deliver that kind of housing to smaller communities with smaller populations?
There are two points in that.
First, it's very difficult to count invisible homelessness. It's been a challenge for the sector and it is an issue that we're concerned about. It also implies that these homeless are living somewhere, as opposed to living in parks and ravines or on the street. That's a very clear definitional difference that drove some of the funding as it was assigned to different cities.
Second, you're right that areas with extreme real estate conditions, such as Vancouver and Toronto in particular, are treated differently because the cost of living in those cities is massively different from other parts of the country. As a result, the housing needs are more likely to be more pronounced during COVID as circumstances roll out.
CMHC can explain the exact formula they use, but a calculation was made on the population facing core housing needs, and that drove part of where the dollars were assigned. That is part of the reason, particularly in smaller cities away from the major cities, even though there are invisible homelessness issues to be contended with. Indeed, rural homelessness is just as serious as urban homelessness, but the numbers aren't the same.
In focusing the projects, those communities are still eligible to apply to the project base, which may change Quebec's numbers, but the city allocations were driven by the numbers in the cities.
That's what the budget is going to lay out—the plan forward. We thought it was critically important to get these dollars into the hands of the sector immediately to keep people safe and to keep the public safe, quite frankly, during COVID.
Please remember that when we took office, there was no tap, let alone a bucket, let alone any water in that bucket to serve this community, so we've had to construct all of those components over the last four years to get to where we are. I agree with you that we should have built these units 10, 15 or 20 years ago. It's why I got into politics.
However, we're at a really good place now where we're moving into supportive housing. As you say, the operational and the supports, which are two different questions, both need to be part of that solution. This three-legged stool needs that. Part of it is working with provinces and territories to make sure the health services arrive in residential settings in community-based programs, and the second part of it is how we pay the rent.
The good news there is that shelters are more expensive on a nightly basis than rapid housing. Hotels are massively more expensive when they're rented than they are when they're owned. We're remodelling the system. We'll be working with provincial, territorial and indigenous governments, as well as cities and frontline service providers, to get all three legs of that stool securely in place.
John Tory, a former leader of the provincial Conservative party in Ontario and now Mayor of Toronto, has said the same thing. Kennedy Stewart in Vancouver has also made similar remarks.
This is really the first, since the early 1990s and even before the 1990s.... Those of us who have worked on this file for a long time know this. No one has ever really specifically built supportive housing in the country. When mayors talk about the game changer, it's this particular form of housing that is making a huge difference. The rapid piece is tied to COVID, but the housing model is tied to supportive housing as a goal.
A number of communities have really taken this issue and are having some extraordinary achievements. Hamilton is another city. Edmonton and Victoria are all cities that are very close to getting to functional zero on homelessness. This may be the exact housing program that will put them over the finish line in that regard.
For example, London has effectively eliminated veterans' homelessness by focusing on moving veterans into housing environments with supports unique to veterans with services from Veterans Canada. As a result, their shelters have not seen a surge during COVID, which is quite remarkable because other populations have grown.
It's a game changer absolutely, but it doesn't work unless we have chapter two. Chapter two doesn't work unless you put the other two legs of the stool together, one of which is health supports. Poverty puts you on the street. Health care keeps you on the street. It's usually mental health and addiction issues, but brain injury is another big driver. Undiagnosed developmental disabilities is the fourth.
Getting the medical services and the income supports in place to make this acquisition and quick, rapid modular housing model work the best. Those three things working together will allow us to make huge savings.
The other big savings that accrue to government are in justice and the health care system. The City of Barrie is running a pilot project right now that shows that when you take the frequent users of police and the hospital services out of the mix, you save the justice and the health system huge money. In fact, 20 people were responsible for the most calls to police services in Barrie, Ontario. Twenty people generated 1,000 police calls over a two-year period. When you house them, the police calls stop.
This is one of the ways to save money in social services and justice as we move towards better outcomes for the people who are at the heart of the challenge in these situations.
It's good news for governments, but it's even better news for people.
Youth aging out of care and custody in the child welfare system are referred to as being on the superhighway to homelessness.
If you're homeless at 16, the chances you will be homeless at 28 is close to 80%. As kids age out of care, if we don't have supportive housing to move them from the provisional housing they have had in the child welfare system to independence—if we don't have that hop, skip and a jump to a higher quality of life—those kids will end up as the chronically homeless we have to deal with in a generation.
Focusing on youth, and in particular gay, lesbian, two-spirit and queer youth, is fundamental to this. During COVID, one of the highest jumps and spikes in population has been kids in that community as they get kicked out of their homes because their sexuality or their gender presentation presents a challenge to their families.
The homeless encampments in Toronto in particular are seeing a much higher count of racialized youth and queer youth, so building intentional housing in that space is fundamentally important to ending homelessness.
The Reaching Home program was started in 1999. It was reprofiled from the homelessness partnering strategy, or HPS, into Reaching Home two years ago with the work we did to update it. It hadn't really been touched since 1999. That's when we added an indigenous stream and a northern stream to deal with the territorial issues.
One of the clear things we heard out of Quebec and from the panellists from Quebec—I might transpose their names, so I won't try to test my memory on this one—was the notion that, first of all, it's driven locally. The federal government doesn't decide how the dollars are spent locally. That's done by local leaders on the ground. In Quebec, because of the model of the National Assembly, we have regions with all of the stakeholders—hospitals, police, legal as well as housing providers, municipalities and the social service sector. They design the program. They take the dollars and they spend it into that program to coordinate both the access of people into a housing system and the services required to make them succeed in housing.
Chronically homeless individuals don't succeed if you just give them a set of keys and put them in a house. They do better, but they don't get better because of the housing. They get better because they're in shelter, but in order to give them independence and a higher quality of life, those social services have to be applied to the housing. Quebec does it better than any other jurisdiction in North America, I would argue. We used the Quebec model and changed Reaching Home to reflect it rather than make Quebec the outlier in this situation. Quebec is doing excellent work here. We shared the best practices of Quebec and rolled them into Reaching Home. In fact, played a critical role in that.
There are two things to say.
One was the organization that Brad Vis referenced, the rural homelessness chapter of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. They're giving us good data and good information as to where to direct dollars. We are just now receiving and assessing the project application pool. Inside that pool, those will be the lessons. That will tell us where the opportunities lie and where the focus is being placed in different communities across the country, and it will allow us to start to articulate a rural strategy that responds directly to the opportunities and the work that's being done on the ground in rural Canada.
I agree with you about seniors' housing, and I would add to that long-term care, which is just a form of supportive housing. We need to bridge the divide between the housing sector and long-term care. Long-term care has always been seen as part of the hospital system and therefore a provincial responsibility, but the pathway to long-term care.... I know that in St-Pierre-Jolys in southern Manitoba, I was at a complex that had retirement housing, seniors housing with some support, long-term care, and then a space in-between for families that had one parent on one side of the hallway and another parent on the other side of the hallway. It was a brilliant program in Ted Falk's riding. It was near Jolys; it wasn't in Jolys, but that's the kind of modelling into rural Canada that will give a full continuum to seniors who want to stay in the community, close to family, close to business and close to doctors, to and evolve and age in place with different chapters of their life being approached in the same project.
We're going to be taking a look at those supportive housing models that come to us through the application process and use that information and data to strengthen our response to housing needs in rural Canada, because we can't solve homelessness in Toronto if we don't solve it in your community.
In old Quebec City there is the conversion of an old hotel across from the train station, where on every floor they treat a different segment of the population who are homeless. Homeless young women are kept together, separate and distinct, as are older homeless individuals who obviously can't go out during the day, where others might.
The former monasteries and religious buildings in virtually every major Quebec community are congregate living, with individual rooms with communal settings with meal programs. They are set up for conversion.
What we're seeing in these situations is that once you stabilize a homeless person's living environment, adding the health services to get them back to full health and independence, the real success is not housing people who are homeless, but watching homeless people lead the system. In fact, people with lived experience are some of the best housing providers now in the country.
If you're looking for advocates who do great work—and I'm not sure I can share this—one of the top-ranking bureaucrats in Hamilton came through the housing system and was homeless as a youth and graduated into the system, graduated through university, through the municipal sector and is now leading that city's charge to end homelessness. They have one of the most pronounced and aggressive housing programs in the country.
To me, there is no joy comparable to watching a homeless person get their own unit, and there is nothing as brilliant as watching one of those individuals graduate to leadership and to delivering the housing to solve the problem for us, on the ground in different communities across the country.
The stories roll through my head so quickly I can't even tell all of the stories, but the reality is that when we make that difference, we turn someone who has high needs into a high contributor.
I'll tell you the population that is the most inspiring. It's former armed forces personnel. They come with public service trained into them. They have extraordinary skills in construction, group management, and in interfacing with authority and structured figures. I think that homeless veterans, in particular, have the potential to literally be the next brigade of housing workers, and are transformational in their capacity to be redeployed into the sector. The good news is they come from every corner of the country, every community in the country. They are indigenous, they are anglophone, they're francophone, and they live on the coasts, in the north and in the major cities.
What's really interesting is the way in which government responds to veterans and the public responds to veterans. I don't think there is a community in this country that would have the Nimbyism toward them or the reaction that I don't want a group home in my neighbourhood. When you tell them that it's a group home for veterans, they calm down. When you tell them that the group home will be led by a former veteran, they respect the public service and the authority that's invested in that kind of training.
I think we have the potential to end chronic homelessness very quickly in this country. It just takes all of our deciding that's what we're going to do. I think we're at a turning point in this country's history, and that, to me, is the most inspiring thing that's come from rapid housing. It's what inspired me about the throne speech and it's the work that lies ahead with the budget. Getting those dates, those projects, but more importantly, those keys into the hands of homeless people and that transformation in their lives, to me, is the real opportunity here. Rapid housing has untied that knot and I expect great things in the future and we are working very hard to realize that with all of you.
I call the meeting back to order. We are resuming our study on the rapid housing initiative.
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing. I think there are a couple of people here for the first time, so please bear with me.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much as it does in a regular committee meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either the floor, English or French.
If any of you watched the last panel, please don't be like Mr. Vaughan. Speak slowly and clearly, but with the same amount of passion and knowledge. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
I would like to welcome our witnesses to continue the discussion with five minutes of opening remarks followed by questions.
From the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation we have Romy Bowers, senior vice-president, client solutions; Caroline Sanfaçon, vice-president, housing solutions, multi-unit; and Yannick Monaghan, senior manager, financial solutions.
We'll start with Ms. Bowers for five minutes.
Go ahead, please. You have the floor.
I'm joining you today from Toronto, the traditional territory of the Wendat, the Anishinabeg, the Haudenosaunee, the Métis and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
I'm pleased to appear before this committee on behalf of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
As Canada's national housing agency, we are guided by a bold aspiration. We want to ensure that by 2030 everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.
Over the past year our goal has become more pertinent than ever. As Canadians do their part to contain the spread of COVID-19, their homes have become a sanctuary, a place of safety and refuge in very challenging times.
The pandemic has only underscored and worsened housing challenges. The reality is that the most at-risk populations are more likely to find themselves in very precarious housing. This includes women and children fleeing violence; seniors; and racialized groups, including Black Canadians and indigenous people.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought a new urgency to create more permanent, affordable housing, both to keep these groups safe through the pandemic and to ensure a strong recovery once we emerge from these very difficult times.
This why the rapid housing initiative was created. We launched this $1-billion dollar program on October 27, 2020. It will lead to at least 3,000 new, affordable units across the country, all completed within 12 months of the funding agreement being signed.
The initiative is funding projects to quickly create new, modular, multi-unit rentals, convert non-residential buildings into affordable, multi-residential units, and rehabilitate buildings that are abandoned or in disrepair into affordable, multi-residential units.
It's important to point out that the initiative takes a rights-based approach to housing. As such, it will directly benefit Canadians in severe housing need and people and populations who are vulnerable. In particular, it will create safe, stable housing for those who are at risk or experiencing homelessness or who are living in temporary shelters because of the pandemic.
To get the funding out the door as efficiently as possible, the funding was split into two streams.
The first is the major cities stream, which is providing $500 million in much-needed direct support to our cities, which are on the front-lines in dealing with the impact of the pandemic. The 15 cities receiving the funding have the country's highest levels of renters in severe housing need and people experiencing homelessness.
As of January 25, we have announced contribution agreements and projects for Ottawa, Edmonton, Hamilton, Waterloo region, London, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Quebec City. Construction work has already begun in some of these cities.
The second stream of the rapid housing initiative is the projects stream. This stream includes $500 million in funding, available through an application process open to provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous governing bodies and organizations, as well as non-profit organizations.
The deadline for applications under the projects stream was December 31. We are completing our assessment and will notify all applicants by the end of February so that they can get their projects up and running as soon as possible. We expect to have all funds committed by March 31, 2021.
I wanted to note here that we at CMHC have received an overwhelming number of very high-quality applications. Over 765 applications went through a triage process to assess eligibility. We have reviewed and prioritized 678 applications, requesting over $4.2 billion in funding.
This indicates clearly the deep levels of housing need that exist in communities, and the capacity of our partners, as Parliamentary Secretary Vaughan mentioned, to act quickly, given the funding support.
I wanted to also note that even as CMHC leads this particular initiative, we've also continued to deliver on the national housing strategy's longer term programs. As you know, the NHS is a 10-year, $70 billion-plus plan, and this includes more than $13 billion proposed in the 2020 fall economic statement.
Mr. Chair, and all members of the committee, I'm extremely proud of CMHC's ability to quickly roll out this initiative. I'm very proud of our housing partners for working with us to make it a success. This means that in the year to come, our most vulnerable populations will be safer and our communities will be more resilient and better positioned to recover from this crisis.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. At this point, I would be very happy, and so would my colleagues, to answer any questions from the committee.
Thank you so much.
I wanted to talk to you about the application process again. I know you are oversubscribed, but I think that has to do with almost every program that the government rolls out, whether it be infrastructure or housing—you name it. There's alway more. At that point, you get community fighting against community.
I'm always looking for ways to streamline the process so that there is the ability for communities to get that. I'm thinking with municipalities, too, where they can see stable funding—the gas tax is one—and where they can debenture programs or projects knowing they have x amount of dollars coming in.
This might be something that could be of interest in housing, whether it be rapid housing or others. This way, every municipality—or first nations community or however you want to do it—is able to see a steady stream of funding come in and they don't have to compete against each other.
Good evening, now, to all of my colleagues. Certainly I want to thank Ms. Bowers and other officials at CMHC for coming in and giving us answers to our questions with respect to the very exciting rapid housing initiative.
Housing is a human right. I'm proud that our government has entrenched the recognition of this right into law through the National Housing Strategy Act. I'm also proud that we have made historic commitments to help implement that right through our $55 billion national housing strategy.
We still have a lot of work and a lot of catch-up to do to ensure that this right is upheld for all Canadians and the promise of the NHS is fulfilled.
In my riding of Saint John-Rothesay, were experiencing, unfortunately, a housing affordability crisis, much like across this country. It's been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. There are currently over 1,500 people on the waiting list for affordable housing. Unfortunately, despite all of our efforts, that list continues to grow by the day. That's why I've advocated for additional pathways for direct federal funding for affordable housing through the NHS. It's why I was thrilled when our government announced the $1 billion rapid housing initiative this past fall. Immediately after this announcement, my team and I began working closely with the City of Saint John and other proponents in the riding to ensure that our community took full advantage of this opportunity to rapidly and significantly increase the stock of affordable housing within it.
This effort resulted in the submission of an application by Housing Alternatives and their group for funding through the projects stream of the RHI to create 30 affordable housing units in the old St. Vincent's High School in Saint John.
We have been working closely with 's team to advocate for this project. I was pleased to see positive announcements through the major cities stream in recent weeks, but I am also keen to see this and other projects stream applications accessed quickly by CMHC. I'm pleased to hear from you that all proponents will have news from CMHC by the end of the month.
Obviously, I certainly understand and respect that there were the two streams. Halifax was the only city in Atlantic Canada that qualified for that stream. Obviously, in my province, we have Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John, Bathurst, Miramichi and other cities that are very anxious about their applications.
My first question for you, Ms. Bowers, is what was the regional breakdown of the 765 applications received through the projects stream?
In my riding, Don Valley North, homelessness is not as obvious. We do witness some homeless in the ravines during the warmer months. It is an issue that many constituents and especially the local organizations have flagged for me. Some have been involved themselves for decades in trying to solve this problem in different parts of the city.
One overall feeling they have is that every time there is a housing initiative announced by the federal government, the funding being provided for that housing unit to actually be built takes years for them to see. They're really frustrated with that fact. Quite honestly, with the political climate, if there is a change of government, there is a lot of uncertainty tied to these types of investments.
How is the rapid housing initiative different from that, and what exactly has CMHC put in place to avoid the traditional delay in the flow of funding? If you have multiple levels of government involved, it seems to be the symptom that you always have those stoppages in the flow of funding. What have you done that's different? Is there any early evidence to show that the plan is actually working to solve urban homelessness?
Thank you, Mr. Dong and Ms. Bowers.
We're a little bit past the appointed hour, but I would ask the members of Parliament to stand by for a couple of administrative things.
Ms. Bowers, Madame Sanfaçon and Mr. Monaghan, thank you so much for being with us. We hope you enjoyed the experience, because the motion that we adopted indicates that you will be back. We all look forward to receiving further updates. Certainly, we appreciate the comprehensive way you answered the questions today and your co-operation in agreeing to provide further information in subsequent appearances or in written form.
Good luck with those 678 applications. Godspeed, and we'll see you again before too long. You are welcome to stay, but you are free to leave.
Colleagues, I want to remind you of the deadline of Tuesday at 5 p.m. eastern time for witness lists for our next study, which is on employment insurance.
Mr. Vis, I want to let you know that despite our best efforts to bring the staffers back in, it appeared that the only solution, which we discovered about five to seven minutes before the end of the meeting, was to terminate the meeting and restart it, which didn't make sense. Please pass our apologies along to them for not being able to resolve the technical difficulties sooner. By the time we found out the solution, it was too late to implement it.