The Conservatives plan to extend three social housing and homelessness programs for an additional five years, the party announced Wednesday.
The Affordable Housing Initiative, the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which were all set to expire in March, will have their $1.9 billion in funding guaranteed for an additional five years.
“We were very afraid the government programs would expire and wouldn’t be renewed,” said Mélodie Cardin, Communications Coordinator for CHRA, a non-profit housing advocacy group.
Matthew Pearce Director General at Quebec’s largest shelter, the Old Brewery Mission, said he was pleased by the Conservatives’ plan. “The Partnering Strategy has been very, very helpful. We’ve been able to renovate, and upgrade all six facilities,” said Pearce.
“It’s too bad there aren’t any increases in funding,” he said. “But at least they’ve maintained the status quo. We can’t expect everything.”
Cardin worries the programs’ survival lies in the election’s outcome. “The renewal is contingent on the Conservatives winning the election. If the Liberals win, they could just wipe the [programs] out.”
But opposition candidates in the riding of Westmount Ville-Marie, home to the majority of Montreal’s 30,000 homeless, gave no indication these programs would end if their parities win the election in October.
The riding’s Liberal candidate, Marc Garneau, announced the party’s intention of renewing two of the programs in August. “I had clearly seen it was absolutely necessary to renew the programs. Our party put the pressure on the Conservatives to announce a renewal,” he said.
The programs have also received the NDP’s support. “We are absolutely, completely in favour of renewing these programs. With people living on the street, the whole social patchwork of our country becomes vulnerable. When everybody has a home, it will create a stable and secure pool of people,” said NDP candidate Anne Lagacé-Dowson.
Calls to the Bloc Québécois were not returned by press time.
– Affordable Housing Initiative, which funds affordable rental units, was started in 2001 by the then-Liberal government.
– The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program was initiated over 30 years ago. It supplies funds to homeowners living in substandard housing so they can renovate and repair their homes, bringing them in line with federal health and safety regulations.
– The Homelessness Partnering Strategy was brought in by the Conservative government in 2006. It works with communities, provinces and territories to ensure funding is used effectively to reduce and prevent homelessness.