CMHC president Evan Siddall speaks to the Canadian Club of Toronto in Toronto on June 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

New tools, ideas needed to speed up housing strategy funding, CMHC president says

The COVID-19 pandemic has made housing affordability an even bigger issue

The national housing strategy will need new tools to move more quickly from ideas to finished projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the head of the federal housing agency.

The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp. is a key overseer of the decade-long national housing strategy, which includes tens of billions in federal and provincial funding and financing.

It has been criticized for the slow turnaround time on some of its national housing strategy programs, including by smaller housing providers who have complained about the reams of paperwork needed to access them.

Some of that is unavoidable, said CMHC president Evan Siddall, as lending federal money through the programs requires diligence.

The federal government requires the agency to assess a project on factors like affordability, impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and accessibility, he said, and there is also a requirement to consult with provinces and territories.

Siddall said the agency has cut turnaround times by one-third, and suggested that new tools could drive down that time further as the country looks to grow the supply of affordable housing.

“We in government, what we do is we take these grand problems and we constrain them and in constraining them we actually slow things down, so we’ve got to find ways to speed them up,” Siddall said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

More help from the private sector is also needed, he said.

“We don’t have enough money as governments to deal with all this,” Siddall said.

And there is another element that is harder to define.

“Just be more innovative, more aspirational, more experimental. Look at different ideas,” he said.

One example: The agency is looking at apps to help connect people who do not have adequate housing, with people who have space available.

There could also be some new ideas coming from the top this week, as the Liberals are expected to include affordable housing in the throne speech when Parliament returns Wednesday.

Among the possibilities is a rapid-housing program that would allow cities and housing providers to purchase distressed assets like hotels and motels where an owner is forced to sell for pandemic-related reasons.

The CMHC has been looking at how that program could work, but Siddall would say only that it is the government’s decision to make.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has made housing affordability, which the federal agency had already made a priority, an even bigger issue.

CMHC estimates about $1 billion worth of mortgage payments were deferred each month during the pandemic, and fewer people will get ahead on their payments this year than in 2019.

The federal agency is striving to ensure everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that meets their needs by 2030.

“It’s all about making sure people understand that housing affordability should be what we all care about. It’s good for our country. It’s good for an economy,” Siddall said.

He brushed off criticism that CMHC has a bias against home ownership, but he said there needs to be a limit to how far the agency will go to help people get into the market.

“People who want to ease credit standards and push debt higher in order to buy houses are only lining their own pockets because they’re not helping the people they’re purporting to help,” he said.

“They’re actually making houses more expensive. It’s really simple economics.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The city is considering easing the requirements for neighbourhoods to get traffic calming devices like raised crosswalks installed on their local roads.
PHOTO: City of Abbotsford agenda package
City may make it easier for Abbotsford residents to get speed humps on local roads

City staff suggests easing criteria for roads to qualify for traffic-calming measures

The HOME Society, currently located at 31581 South Fraser Way in Abbotsford, is moving locations after 25 years.
HOME Society in Abbotsford to move locations after 25 years

Move being done to accommodate growth, says executive director

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Gurkirat Toor has been charged after allegedly pointing a gun at another driver on Oct. 23 in Abbotsford.
Man charged after gun pointed at another driver in Abbotsford

Gurkirat Toor, 21, previously charged with purple-fentanyl bust

The Abbotsford Teachers’ Union stated that local teachers worked without heat on Friday as secondary principals’ and vice-principals’ were at a work-related retreat in Whistler. (Google)
Abbotsford Teachers’ Union says teachers left in the cold on Friday

Abbotsford School District disagrees, saying all buildings were set to 21C on Pro-D Day

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

A racoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Racoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Lawrence Nadessan, 44, was last seen on Oct. 24 at 11:30 p.m. in Maple Ridge.
Maple Ridge man missing since Saturday is extremely out of character, family says

Cameras saw him leaving home, not dressed for the weather

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Ridge Meadows RCMP (Black Press)
Maple Ridge X-ray tech convicted of sexual assault dating back 30 years

Allen James Brooks is expected to be sentenced in January 2021

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Most Read