Any resident in Kelowna-Lake Country is all too familiar with the increasing scale of chronic homelessness in our community and country.
The source of Canada’s housing crisis varies widely including increasing housing costs, sudden job losses and mental health and addiction challenges. The face of it is evident to everyone: increased burdens on public resources, small businesses and not-for-profits, more people living in shelters and tent cities, and unfortunately increased immeasurable suffering.
The federal Liberal government's solution – a 10-year $78.5 billion National Housing Strategy, has recently come under fire from Karen Hogan, the non-partisan Auditor General of Canada (AG), for missing its targets and lacking the data to demonstrate results.
The AG’s office dug into the results of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Infrastructure Canada's $3.5 billion “Reaching Home Program” to curb homelessness in Canada, where they released a crushing report.
Reaching 64 communities around Canada with this program, the Liberals had set themselves a target of curbing 50 per cent of chronic homelessness by 2028. Yet, the lack of identifiable results does not demonstrate the government even knows how close it is to accomplishing this goal. In fact, recent reports in Kelowna state shelters are at capacity and there is an increase in homelessness.
The AG report stated the agencies responsible for these programs "did not know whether their efforts improved housing outcomes for people experiencing homelessness" and "did not know whether homelessness had increased or decreased since 2019" as a result of billions spent.
The CMHC could not say, as a result of the $9 billion spent, who benefited from its initiatives because they did not measure changes in housing outcomes.
Their programs often housed vulnerable individuals and families in "affordable" rental units that ended up unaffordable for their income level.
Worst of all, despite being designated as the lead for the National Housing Strategy and Reaching Home programs, the CMHC and Infrastructure Canada refused to take accountability for not addressing chronic homelessness, instead passing the buck to provinces, municipalities and not-for-profits.
Much of this dodging blame likely stems from the AG identifying a wide gap in their data collection. The agencies responsible have produced no findings on homelessness since March 2020, and their data for 2019-2020 is contradictory, showing both an increase and decrease in homelessness.
Compounding this confusion is the admission that they do not analyze any up-to-date national shelter-use data or properly share program results across departments.
It will be impossible for us to find success in getting people off the streets if government departments silo their findings from each other while not correctly looking at the information that front-line shelters are providing them. The report shows a lack of transparency, accountability, oversight, good governance and basic project and fiscal management on the part of the federal government.
The results of years of photo ops and billions spent are clear. Housing prices have doubled since 2015, the dream of home ownership is only a dream for many and people are struggling to just afford to keep a roof over their head.
The Liberal government needs to provide a full account of their $78.5 billion Housing Strategy. I’ll be pressing the government on this important issue and will have more to report.
If you need assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].