Mayor Henry Braun hopes Abbotsford could see a portion of the billions of dollars pledged by the federal government Wednesday to combat homelessness and increase the stock of affordable housing.
The Trudeau government’s 2017 budget sets aside $11.2 billion over 11 years for a new national housing strategy that would include “a variety of initiatives designed to build, renew and repair Canada’s stock of affordable housing.”
Braun said such an initiative is “long overdue.”
And while details of how the money will be spent are vague, Braun said “I’m hoping some of this will end up in Abbotsford.”
The Abbotsford-Mission area has the lowest rental vacancy rate of any major Canadian city, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and increasing homelessness numbers have been linked to the lack of available housing.
Braun said he hopes a strategy will increase incentives for the private sector to build market rental housing.
The National Housing Strategy isn’t the only announcement in the budget that could have an impact on the supply of affordable housing here.
The Trudeau government also promised $2.1 billion for the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), a program Abbotsford is largely excluded from through 2019.
The funds will be doled out over the next 11 years beyond the 2018-19 fiscal year, when previously announced funding was scheduled to cease.
When the program was launched 18 years ago, the feds picked 61 communities – seven in B.C. – to receive the bulk of HPS funding. Abbotsford was not among them, or in 2014, when the latest batch of contracts were signed.
But last year, a federal spokesperson suggested that Abbotsford could be in line for funding after 2019 when the next set of HPS agreements will come into effect.
That follows a plea from the Fraser Valley Regional District for the federal government to extend the program to more communities.
While the city received $400,000 in HPS funding over three years to develop a new intake system in May 2015 under a stream of the program reserved for “innovative projects,” it has been unable to receive ongoing funding like that obtained by Prince George, Nanaimo and Kelowna.
Thanks to changes made last year, Abbotsford is able to apply for a portion of HPS money designated for “rural and remote” communities. The spokesperson said Abbotsford was on the minds of the government when the decision was made to allow certain cities to access $11 million in new money through that component.
However, there has been no indication that any of that money has made its way to Abbotsford.
The News asked last week if any local organizations had been able to access that money, but did not receive a response.
– with files from Kelvin Gawley