Let universities be part of the solution to Canada’s housing crisis

November 22, 2023
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Two female students baking in a dorm room

OTTAWA—On November 21, 2023, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the 2023 federal fall economic statement (FES) in the House of Commons. The FES signaled that the government is taking concrete action on housing, but more can be done to ensure universities are part of the solution to Canada’s housing crisis. 

The federal statement outlined two key new investments in housing:  

  1. $15 billion in new loan funding for the Apartment Construction Loan Program 
  2. An additional $1 billion for Affordable Housing Fund. 

While a step in the right direction, these measures do not explicitly allow Canadian universities to be collaborators in solving our housing crisis. Universities are willing partners to the federal government, provinces, municipalities and private and not-for-profit housing providers in working to address housing affordability and supply issues. 

This National Housing Day, Canadian universities echo the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s statement that much more must be done to achieve the National Housing Strategy’s goal of introducing 160,000 new affordable homes by 2028, and that a collaborative approach is needed to do so. 

Canada’s universities have been calling on the government to take three major recommendations on housing: 1) incentivize building with low-cost financing; 2) expand eligibility for the National Housing Strategy to include post-secondary institutions; and 3) increase the supply of affordable housing in communities across the country. 

Incentivize building with low-cost financing 

Like many across Canada, universities are struggling with rising construction and borrowing costs as well as inaccessibility of funding. While they are working hard to build more residences, repurpose existing buildings to house students and implementing diverse and innovative housing options, much more could be accomplished if universities had direct access from the federal government to cheaper financing for student housing construction. 

Expand eligibility for Canada’s housing programs 

The introduction of Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy in 2017 was a win for Canadians. The strategy set out ambitious targets and introduced programs to reduce homelessness and support community housing. However, six years later, the realities of the housing market have changed and the strategy no longer responds Canadian’s diverse housing needs. 

Currently, student housing (and retirement homes—which we also sorely need across the country) are exempt from government programs like the Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFI), now called the Apartment Construction Loan Program. With increasing demand for student housing at Canadians universities, being able to use these funds would ensure that more students have safe, affordable and convenient places to call home. 

Combined, providing low-cost financing and expanding eligibility for National Housing Strategy programs would allow our universities to quicky, efficiently and cost-effectively address student housing concerns in their communities. At the core of the issue is the supply of affordable housing in communities across the country. Addressing the student housing challenge will not be solved without a broader solution to rising rents and home prices in every part of the country. 

Universities have long been anchors in their communities, providing jobs, stimulating the local economy and delivering critical services to cities and towns from coast to coast to coast. And when it comes to the housing crisis, it is no different: universities want to be part of the solution. We urge the federal government to collaborate more closely with post-secondary institutions so that we can tackle Canada’s housing affordability crisis together. 

About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Media contact:

Lisa Wallace
Assistant Director, Communications
Universities Canada
[email protected]

Tagged:  Strong and healthy communities

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