“No Canadian should ever be without a place to call home. By making smart and substantial investments in affordable housing and providing funding directly to municipalities, we’re creating jobs, strengthening our communities across the country and helping the most vulnerable,” Trudeau said in a news release.
The Rapid Housing Initiative is expected to fund the development of 3,000 permanent, affordable-housing units across Canada. Some units will be built new, some projects will convert non-residential buildings into multi-residential homes and others will rehabilitate abandoned buildings, the federal government said in the news release.
In Calgary, the program will fund more than 100 homes, according to Mayor Naheed Nenshi. He estimates the city needs about $500 million to reach the “aggressive goal” of ending chronic homelessness through affordable housing projects in two years.
“COVID-19 has exposed a lot of the vulnerabilities of our society but also a lot of opportunities. We’ve been talking about ending homelessness for 15 years now and we have it within our grasp,” Nenshi said.
The city will be looking to purchase some property with the funds, possibly hotel or condo buildings that are on the market, the mayor said. Officials are putting together a plan to deploy the money before the end of the year.
“We’re focusing on the rapid in rapid housing. I anticipate we will have much more than $24 million worth of projects, so we look forward to participating in the competitive round as well,” he said.
Ultimately, Nenshi said there needs to be further collaboration between the city, provincial and federal governments to produce a Calgary-focused housing program.
“We are in a position, given our vacancy rates and how things are in Calgary, that a lot of other cities aren’t in, which is that we really could end homelessness with this window of opportunity in the economic downturn. But that does require us to get some money that’s not just our per capita allotment,” said Nenshi.
“This will take focused investment in this city beyond just this national program.”
Applications for grants through the $500 million allocated for additional projects are being accepted until the end of the year.