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The Canadian government launched its long-awaited national housing strategy Wednesday, but Vancouver advocates say the move is long overdue in a city already that is facing record levels of homelessness and an affordability crisis.
The 10-year plan includes some bold promises such as committing $40 billion to build 100,000 new affordable housing units, repairing 300,000 existing affordable housing units. The initiative also aims to cut chronic homelessness in half and remove 530,000 households from "housing need" by 2027.
Vancouver affordable housing advocates say the move is long overdue. According to Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Jeremy Hunka, it may be too late for some of the 2,100 currently facing homelessness in the city.
"The bottom line is this is a big number, there’s a lot of money coming, help is on the way. A lot of that help is a long way down the road and a lot of people are going to be struggling until that comes," he told CTV Vancouver Wednesday. "A lot of people are going to be suffering and some people might not make it to see some of this help because that’s the reality of the homeless crisis."
The strategy also allocates $4 billion for a national housing benefit intended to provide low-income renters with an annual $2,500-subsidy beginning in 2020.
"There’s a lot of single mothers, a lot of families who are low-income who could really use that subsidy. For it to not come until 2020 means a lot of long, hard years ahead," Hunka said. "We’re glad this funding is coming, but we’ve got a huge mountain to climb a lot of challenge to overcome until that help is there."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city has struggled to have conversations about housing with provincial and federal governments in the past.
"It’s been an embarrassment to not have a national housing strategy as a country and it’s fantastic to see one delivered that has had rigour and has had input from all levels," he said Wednesday.
"We’ve struggled as a city with provincial and federal governments past who were not at the table with us at the level we needed them and as a result we’ve had record levels of homelessness right across Metro Vancouver, right across our region right now and it’s never been worse."
B.C. Premier John Horgan also echoed the sentiment that governments need to collaborate to address housing affordability and homelessness.
"If we’re going to crack the affordability crisis of housing in British Columbia, we need all levels of government working together," he said at a press conference. "This is a step in the right direction."
Robertson said the housing strategy shows just how important "urgent action" is for the country.
"We have to treat housing as a human right and it’s critical that our federal government recognizes that and follows through in terms of the monitoring and the reporting on that," he said.
However, both Robertson and Hunka pointed out that while having a strategy is a good start, targets need to be set to ensure the plan is implemented.
"It’s fantastic to have a game plan," Robertson said. "We need to take those next steps and take action."
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