In the Great Depression of the 1930s homelessness became an important issue as migrant workers traveled by freighthopping to try and find some employment. However, with the Second World War homelessness virtually disappeared due to the acute labour shortage. In the years after the war homelessness remained a minor concern as extremely cheap accommodation was available in rooming houses located in the poorest parts of most major cities. Even the most destitute could find some form of housing, even if its quality was abysmal.
While accurate statistics on the homelessness population are hard to gather, it is the general consensus that the number of homeless increased considerably beginning in the 1970s. Despite Canada's booming economy this trend continued, and perhaps even accelerated in the 1990s. In Toronto, for instance, admissions to homeless shelters increase by 75% between 1988 and 1998 In recent years homelessness has thus become a major political issue in Canada.
While large amounts of lower income housing across Canada was being gentrified, both the government and the private sector failed to provide a new supply of such housing. In the 1950s and 1960s the federal government had been committed to destroying slums and building modern housing projects. This program had many ill effects, the destruction of historic communities, such as Africville near Halifax, and the construction of dramatic failures, such as Regent Park in Toronto, but it did guarantee a steady supply of lower income housing. In 1969, increasingly aware of the problems of this approach, the federal government suspended all slum clearance programs. They were replaced by government funding for non-profit and cooperative housing. These were generally mixed income cooperative apartments. By most measures these were a success in creating housing for lower income Canadians of a reasonable quality, while avoiding most of the poor social effects of the earlier housing projects. This was in part a result of only 25% of units in the mixed income structures going to income tested residents. This meant that while a similar number of units were being built through government programs each year, only 25% of these units went to lower income Canadians. This 75% decrease in government funded housing led perennial shortages and years long waiting lists for apartments. The mixed income approach also led to controversy as some objected to governments helping build accommodations for those that could afford to live elsewhere these housing initiatives were also quite expensive.
Over the course of the 1980s the government of Brian Mulroney significantly reduced the number of units built each year. In the 1994 federal budget brought in by the new government of Jean Chrétien almost completely halted these federal housing programs. In 1995 the Ontario government of Mike Harris did the same, ensuring that in Ontario virtually no subsidized housing would be constructed for the next decade.
While governments were exiting the business of providing lower income housing, the private sector was also not providing it. In this same era cities and provinces across Canada significantly tightened building codes. While this ensured that all Canadians could expect their home to meet basic health and safety standards, it also made accommodation more expensive. Minto Developments, one of the largest property developers estimated that the new rules increased building costs by some $8000 per house and landlords would need to charge an extra $70 per month for each rental unit. Other regulatory changes also reduced private investment in low income housing. In 1970 the federal government changed the tax code so that real estate investments were no longer exempt from the capital gains tax. This made investing in rental properties far less attractive. Over the course of the 1970s most provinces brought in rent control to cope with rampant inflation, this also made the construction of rental properties less attractive to developers. The 1990s saw significant downloading of responsibilities from the federal and provincial governments to the municipal level. In Canada municipal governments are largely funded through property taxes, and as these increased so did housing costs. This led to a nationwide fall in the number of rental units produced. While in 1986 30,000 new units had been built across Canada this had fallen to 7,000 in 1999. In the city of Calgary, with one of the most acute housing shortages, only 16 new units of rental housing were built in 1996.
Homelessness is a problem that largely affects white native born Canadians. Immigrants and visible minorities are far less likely to be homeless. Immigrants are also less likely to receive any form of subsidized housing than native Canadians, with the exception of very recently arrived immigrants.
The Homeless Individuals and Families Information System HIFIS is a records management system used by hundreds of homeless shelters and transition homes in Canada. It provides shelter operators with a user-friendly method of collecting important information on the shelter-using community.
The software, training and technical support are available free-of-charge for the system. Computers and Microsoft software are also available to shelters free-of-charge.
"The Crisis of Women's Homelessness in Canada: Summary of the CERA Report".(WOMEN AND ENVIRONMENTS)(Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation)(Report)(Brief article)
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Homeless disasters gains urgency: although there have been some gains in fighting homelessness in Canada, the need for a national homelessness program is crucial. The UN agrees.
Oct 29, 2006; The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) named homelessness a national disaster in this country eight years ago. In June, the...
Government of Canada Supports Saint John Shelters: Funding Will Help Young Mothers at First Steps Housing and Men at the Salvation Army
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