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Freeland says budget lacked housing measures because 2022 funds still being spent

Last year’s budget allocated funds for $4 billion housing accelerator program that haven’t been spent
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and B.C. Premier David Eby arrive for a news conference after touring Powertech Labs, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has dismissed criticism that this week’s federal budget lacks measures to address Canada’s housing crisis, saying last year’s budget featured a $10-billion plan that is still being spent.

Freeland said Thursday that last year’s budget allocated funds for a $4 billion housing accelerator program that was launched only this month by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She said the previous housing funding “hasn’t been spent yet,” and it’s up to municipalities across the country to apply for it through a recently opened portal for the accelerator fund.

“This was a multi-year plan,” Freeland said at a news conference in Surrey, east of Vancouver. “You don’t deploy $10 billion in one month or in one year.”

B.C. Premier David Eby, who attended the news conference with Freeland, said he recognized there are “significant parcels” of funding from the last budget that have not yet been deployed in the province “in a significant way.”

Eby said the federal government needs to make sure that B.C. sees “its fair share of that funding,” and the province is ready to move as soon as federal money moves in its direction.

“When they bring capital dollars here to build housing, we have the operating funding,” Eby said. “If they have surplus from other provinces that is unspent, bring it to British Columbia, because we’re going to put it to work right here. We’re an excellent partner for that.”

Trudeau announced the $4-billion housing accelerator in Guelph on March 17. It aims to speed up the construction of 100,000 homes across Canada over the next 10 years.

The fund requires municipalities to submit action plans on how they want to fast-track more housing supply, with affordability in mind.

Freeland said the federal government will not be “prescriptive” in finding one-size-fits-all solutions to fund through the accelerator.

“Tell us what your plan is to get more homes built,” she said. “Tell us how some of that money can help you build those homes, and we will write a cheque. And $4 billion will mean we can write a lot of cheques.”

Real estate observers have bemoaned the lack of additional housing affordability measures in the Tuesday’s budget, despite applauding the federal government’s promise of a new mortgage code of conduct that is meant to give struggling homeowners fair access to relief measures.

—Chuck Chiang, The Canadian Press

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