Housing Ministers' Conference: 400 tenants demand action from Ottawa

GATINEAU, QC, Dec. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - 400 tenants and homeless people made their voices heard this morning in front of the Holiday Inn in Gatineau where the first Federal-Provincial-Territorial Housing Ministers Meeting is taking place since the arrival in power of Stephen Harper's Conservative Party. The protesters came from across Quebec and the Gatineau-Ottawa area at the invitation of the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), a housing rights coalition. They demanded that the federal government take action on the problems of housing and homelessness, problems which have been aggravated by the economic crisis. They also want the government to protect 600 000 existing social housing units.

François Saillant, FRAPRU coordinator, pressed the Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Devevelopment, Diane Finley, to make concrete commitments in front of her provincial and territorial colleagues. He states that "twice, since 2006, the Conservative ministers have failed to attend the meetings of the provincial and territorial ministers. We hope that Ms. Finley's presence indicates the government's intention to finally make a concrete announcement that matches the severity of the housing problems that confront us."

FRAPRU adds that the investments in social housing that the Conservative government announced during its January 2009 budget will end in 18 months and that nothing is assured past that date. François Saillant is quite concerned and states that "the United Nations, especially through its Special Rapporteur on Housing, has pressured the Canadian government several times to consider the problems of housing and homelessness as a national emergency and to dedicate long-term funding to this area. How can we not speak of an emergency when we know the effects of the current economic crisis and when we know that even before this crisis almost 700 000 Canadian tenant households spent more than half their income to house themselves, including 320 000 households that spent over 80% of their revenue on shelter?"

Along with other Canadian housing rights organizations, FRAPRU wants federal investments of 2 billion additional dollars per year for social housing. FRAPRU would like to see such an announcement during the next budget of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

FRAPRU also demands that Minister Finley makes a firm commitment to maintain federal subsidies in existing social housing units, be they those directly under the responsibility of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) or those under provincial or territorial jurisdiction. They add that the government still subsidizes 600 000 social housing units, of which 123 000 are situated in Quebec and 230 000 in Ontario. However, these subsidies are of a limited duration (35 years in most cases) and have begun to end for a small part of the social housing stock, a phenomenon which will amplify during the beginning of the 2010s.

The end of these federal subsidies will save the government 1.6 billion dollars per year, but will mean an important rent increase in these units and could, in certain cases, lead to their privatization. According to FRAPRU, the federal government must protect the social housing that it finances and must ensure that these units remain accessible to the low-income households for whom they have been built.

SOURCE Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)

For further information: For further information: François Saillant, FRAPRU, (514) 919-2843 (cell phone); Véronique Laflamme, FRAPRU, (514) 231-2309 (cell phone); François Roy, Logemen'occupe, Gatineau, (613) 277-6507 (cell phone)

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Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)

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