Federal budget increases low-cost loans for new rental housing

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      The biggest issue facing many Vancouver residents is the high cost of housing.

      Today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau augmented a rental construction financing initiative, which was launched in 2017 by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

      Initially, $2.5 billion was budgeted but today's federal budget increases that to $3.75 billion over three years.

      "This new funding is intended to support projects that address the needs of modest- and middle-income households struggling in expensive housing markets," the budget document states. "In total, this measure alone is expected to spur the construction of more than 14,000 new rental units across Canada."

      In November, the Canada Mortage and Housing Corporation reported that the vacancy rate for purpose-built rental housing in Metro Vancouver had fallen to 0.7 percent.

      The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada welcomed the increased financial assistance for rental-housing construction. It declared in a news release that this "has the potential to play a substantial role in alleviating the affordable housing deficit".

      "CHF Canada is optimistic that community-oriented housing providers like co-ops will be prioritized in the roll-out of the program and that we will see increased construction of co-op units over the next three years as a result of this program."

      However, NDP finance critic Peter Julian didn't see much in the budget to address the high cost of housing in B.C.

      “The housing crisis is happening now, and it’s very real in British Columbia," the veteran New Democrat said. "British Columbians aren’t looking for measures that only take place after the next election or in the next ten years; they’re looking for measures to address this crisis today. Unfortunately, they weren’t present in the Liberals’ budget.”

      New Westminster–Burnaby NDP MP Peter Julian says the Trudeau government has not done enough to address the housing crisis in B.C.

      B.C. budget documents include $1.6-billion over three years to build and maintain affordable rental housing, boost student-housing construction, provide supportive housing, and offer rental assistance for low-income British Columbians.

      B.C. finance minister Carole James increased the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters by $930 annually and ensured that low-income working parents will collect $800 more per year through the rental assistance program. 

      However, the NDP minority government did not follow through on a pre-election promise to give tenants a $400 rebate.

      The federal government has also not offered any cash to renters in today's budget.