OTTAWA — Cities and affordable housing providers will find themselves with $11.2 billion more to spend on new and existing units over the coming decade, as part of the federal government's multi-pronged push to help people find homes.
Of that money, which comes from the government's social infrastructure fund, $5 billion will be allotted to encourage housing providers to pool resources with private partners and to allow the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., to provide more direct loans to cities.
The funding falls short of the $12.6 billion the mayors of Canada's biggest cities requested last year and Wednesday's federal budget shows that the majority of the $11.2 billion isn't slated to be spent until after 2022.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks on Parliament Hill on March 22, 2017. (Photo: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Over the next 11 years, the Liberals pledged $202 million to free up more federal land for affordable housing projects, $300 million for housing in the North and $225 million to support programs that provide units to indigenous peoples off reserve.
The money, coupled with $2.1 billion for homelessness initiatives over the next 11 years, sets the financial backbone for the Liberals' promised national housing strategy that will be released in the coming months. The document will outline how the government plans to help people find affordable housing that meets their needs, and ensure a robust emergency shelter and transitional housing system for those who need it.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters the spending will make a difference for those who rely on social housing. He said the Liberals want to ensure cities can access funds as quickly as possible to make necessary investments in the country's stock of aging affordable housing.
Liberals court private investors for infrastructure projects
The details are among many laid out in the budget, which outlines how the government plans to spend the $81 billion it is making available between now and 2028 to address future infrastructure needs and, the government hopes, boost the economy to create new jobs and government revenues.
It also gives $39.9 million over five years for Statistics Canada to create a national database of every property in Canada. This will include up-to-date information on sales, the degree of foreign ownership and homeowner demographics and finances to answer lingering questions about the skyrocketing cost of housing that may squeeze middle-class buyers out of the market.
The Liberals clearly see a need to attract private investors to help pay for infrastructure projects, including affordable housing, given the federal government's tight fiscal position.
At the centre of that push is a proposed new infrastructure bank that would use public dollars to leverage private investment in three key areas: trade corridors, green infrastructure and public transit.
Infrastructure bank up and running later this year: Morneau
The government is setting aside $15 billion in cash for the bank, split evenly between each of the aforementioned funding streams, with spending set to start as early as the next fiscal year on projects based on budget projections.
Morneau said that the government wants to have the bank up and running this year, including having some projects that will be identified for investors.
But the budget document again projects that the majority of the bank's spending won't happen until after 2022. And in the case of trade corridor infrastructure, spending isn't expected to start until 2020, even though some experts argue this stream would give the country the biggest economic bump.
The Liberals are also tweaking how much of the bill it will cover for municipal projects under the second phase of its infrastructure plan in order to nudge provinces to pony up more money for work and to prod cities to consider using the bank for projects that could generate revenue, like transit systems.
The government will cover up to 40 per cent of municipal projects under the upcoming phase of its infrastructure plan, 50 per cent for provincial projects and 75 per cent for indigenous projects.