Why is housing important?
Access to adequate housing is a human right for everyone in Canada. Simply put, approaching housing as a human right is a way to achieve equality.
Having an affordable and safe place to live helps people and families succeed and thrive. It is integral to supporting health, life, community, sustainability, and ultimately, to protecting human dignity.
What is the National Housing Strategy Act?
In 2019, Parliament passed the National Housing Strategy Act (the Act), which applies a human rights-based approach to the housing policy of the Government of Canada. The federal government estimates that over the next decade, the National Housing Strategy Act will assist 530,000 families with housing needs and cut chronic homelessness by 50%.
The Act establishes a requirement for:
- A National Housing Strategy;
- A National Housing Council (the Council); and
- A Federal Housing Advocate (the Advocate).
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is directing the creation of the National Housing Council. The Council will oversee the implementation of the National Housing Strategy.
The Federal Housing Advocate will be housed at and supported by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
While the Act has received Royal Assent, it is not in force yet. The Act will come into force on a day to be set by the Governor in Council.
What is the role of the Federal Housing Advocate’s Office?
The role of the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate at the Canadian Human Rights Commission is to promote and protect housing rights in Canada, including the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing. The goal of the Advocate’s work is to make recommendations to improve Canada’s housing laws, policies and programs so that they enable people and families in Canada to have access to adequate, suitable, affordable and safe housing that meets their needs.
The Advocate is responsible for monitoring, assessing, reporting, and making recommendations on housing rights in Canada. This includes:
- Studying and reporting on systemic housing issues;
- Monitoring and assessing the impacts of federal housing policies, including the National Housing Strategy Act and its related National Housing Strategy;
- Receiving and investigating submissions on systemic housing issues from affected groups and referring key systemic issues to the National Housing Council for hearings before a Review Panel; and,
- Reporting annually to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and making recommendations on how to address systemic housing issues.
The Advocate will put particular focus on those with the greatest housing need, such as women and children fleeing domestic violence, seniors, Indigenous people, the homeless, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans, young adults, racialized groups and newcomers to Canada.
The Federal Housing Advocate will be a Governor in Council appointment.
Work is currently underway to establish the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate. Of note, the Office cannot engage in any of the Advocate’s powers, duties or functions until the Advocate is appointed. This includes receiving submissions on systemic housing issues.
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