Ottawa non-committal on social-housing funds for cities

Toronto Mayor John Tory and his counterparts from other major Canadian cities made their case on Friday...

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Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the government plans to invest heavily to ease the housing crunch, but warns it may not be as much as everyone hopes. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Toronto Mayor John Tory and his counterparts from other major Canadian cities made their case on Friday for the federal government to start handing over billions of dollars to repair crumbling public housing, but they received only reassurances and no new money in return.

At a housing summit in Toronto’s revitalized Regent Park neighbourhood, Mr. Tory, the mayors of Edmonton and Vancouver and other municipal leaders met with Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal government’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. They demanded that $12.6-billion of the $20-billion that Ottawa plans to spend on “social infrastructure” over the next decade be carved out just for housing.

Toronto alone is asking for $864-million from both the federal and Ontario governments to repair thousands of its public housing units and warns that without the cash, growing numbers of units will be left unrepaired and uninhabitable. In a speech on Friday, Mr. Duclos trumpeted $154-million in money already flowing to the city from the federal government and Ontario for various affordable-housing initiatives, including $76-million for repairs to Toronto Community Housing Corp. buildings in 2016-2017.

Speaking to reporters, both Mr. Duclos and Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan were adamant that their government was back in the business of funding affordable housing. But they said a comprehensive national housing strategy must be completed before any longer-term money could flow, to ensure it is spent in “an orderly and sequential” manner.

“There’s been a decade of underinvestment and lack of partnership with cities,” said Mr. Vaughan, a former Toronto city councillor, referring to the previous Conservative government. “We have changed that fundamentally by putting the new money on the table in 2016. It’s a down payment for the national housing strategy.”

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