2021/07/11 | News – sector growth

Housing groups applaud new round of RHI funding

The federal government announced $1.5 billion for the second round of the rapid housing initiative on June 30. This phase of the program, which addresses some of the concerns raised in the first round, was well received by community-housing stakeholders, although they want the initiative to be become a permanent program.

The announcement June 30 that the federal government is adding an additional $1.5 billion to its Rapid Housing Initiative was applauded by leaders of Canadian housing groups, including the Community Housing Transformation Centre.

While unveiling the details of Round 2, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “Canadians should not have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table. By continuing to make substantial investments in affordable housing, we’re creating new jobs, growing our middle class, and strengthening our communities.”

Hope Jamieson, who piloted efforts by the Centre to help organizations across the country to submit applications under a very tight deadline last fall, says the renewal is essential.

“During the first round of RHI, the Centre was able to support 45 organizations with almost $1.7 million in funding to create strong applications on a short timeline,” she notes. “This proves that, with the right organizational support, the sector is able and willing to answer the call to help solve Canada’s affordable housing supply crisis.   

“The sheer volume of applications for the first round of RHI speaks to the magnitude of the need in our country, and I’m pleased to see this reality acknowledged by a second round,” Jamieson adds.

The original RHI program was launched in late October 2020 with a budget of $1 billion for the construction of 3,000 housing units within a year. Groups had until Dec. 31 to file an application.

But RHI applications submitted to the CMHC far exceeded the original budget. For the $500 million allocated to the “project” stream (the other $500 million was for municipalities), the CMHC received applications from 670 groups requesting a total of $4.2 billion — more than eight times the budget envelope.

Ottawa has doubled the project stream to $1 billion this time and projects that didn’t make the cut in 2020 will be reconsidered in this round.

The municipal stream is once more getting $500 million, but the pool of eligible cities has been expanded from 15 to 30 with towns in the greatest housing need getting priority.

Also new are several changes requested by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association after Round 1, including less restrictive criteria for the type of allowable construction and longer timelines for projects in Canada’s northern regions. As well, at least 25% of the approved units must be aimed at “women-focused housing projects.”

Minister ‘loves’ RHI

CHRA executive director Jeff Morrison told the Centre that his members are “pleased that the federal government has unveiled the details of the second round of funding under the Rapid Housing Initiative, and that they’ve incorporated several changes to the program identified by CHRA members.

“Although the cumulative $2.5 billion made available under the RHI is welcome and will lead to thousands of new affordable housing units,” he says, “we encourage the federal government to make the RHI a permanent program, with predictable, stable funding over the long term.”

Jamieson agrees. “I hope government will continue to work with the community-housing sector to continue and refine the program and help community housing providers do what they do best: meet the unique needs of their communities for safe, adequate, and affordable housing.”

The federal cabinet minister responsible for housing, Ahmed Hussen, seems to agree, too. In an interview with Presse canadienne, he said “I love this program and I hope we can find the means to continue supporting it.”

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