Big city mayors ask feds for $12.6B for affordable housing

The mayors of Canada's largest cities are making a billion-dollar push for federal housing money just as the Liberals are set to finalize a national strategy, and the minister responsible is trying to manage expectations.

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The mayors of Canada's largest cities are making a billion-dollar push for federal housing money just as the Liberals are set to finalize a national strategy, and the minister responsible is trying to manage expectations.

The mayors want the federal Liberals to set aside $12.6 billion during the next decade to help build new affordable housing units and alleviate a growing need in places like Toronto and Vancouver.

The lion's share, about $7.7 billion, would go to repairing and maintaining existing units nationwide. A further $4.2 billion would go to building up to 10,000 new affordable housing units annually across the country. There is also approximately $700 million for a portable rental subsidy that wouldn't be tied to a unit, but to a recipient.

It's a major ask of the federal government as it works to finalize the second phase of its infrastructure program and allocate $17.7 billion for affordable housing, seniors homes, recreational facilities and child care -- with each of those sectors competing for the cash.

"The highest need for most of us would be housing, and it's not to say there aren't pressing needs for seniors' infrastructure, for culture and recreation infrastructure, and for child care space infrastructure, but without adequate, safe and decent dignified housing for families, those other services are less relevant," said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, chairman of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities big city mayors' caucus.

"We have needs in all of those other areas that social infrastructure could fund, but we don't have a crisis in those other areas in the same way that we do around housing, especially in the largest cities."

  The federal government is set to unveil its national housing strategy in late November, laying out how the government plans to help with affordable housing, homeless shelters, rental units and the high cost of home ownership in some Canadian cities. Federal officials see the plan as central to the government's longer-term goals to reduce poverty rates nationwide.

The federal minister in charge of crafting a national housing strategy said Friday that the government plans to invest heavily to ease the housing crunch, but warned it may not be as much as everyone hopes.

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