CMHC president Evan Siddall speaks to the Canadian Club of Toronto in Toronto on June 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

New tools, ideas needed to speed up housing strategy funding, CMHC president says

The COVID-19 pandemic has made housing affordability an even bigger issue

The national housing strategy will need new tools to move more quickly from ideas to finished projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the head of the federal housing agency.

The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp. is a key overseer of the decade-long national housing strategy, which includes tens of billions in federal and provincial funding and financing.

It has been criticized for the slow turnaround time on some of its national housing strategy programs, including by smaller housing providers who have complained about the reams of paperwork needed to access them.

Some of that is unavoidable, said CMHC president Evan Siddall, as lending federal money through the programs requires diligence.

The federal government requires the agency to assess a project on factors like affordability, impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and accessibility, he said, and there is also a requirement to consult with provinces and territories.

Siddall said the agency has cut turnaround times by one-third, and suggested that new tools could drive down that time further as the country looks to grow the supply of affordable housing.

“We in government, what we do is we take these grand problems and we constrain them and in constraining them we actually slow things down, so we’ve got to find ways to speed them up,” Siddall said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

More help from the private sector is also needed, he said.

“We don’t have enough money as governments to deal with all this,” Siddall said.

And there is another element that is harder to define.

“Just be more innovative, more aspirational, more experimental. Look at different ideas,” he said.

One example: The agency is looking at apps to help connect people who do not have adequate housing, with people who have space available.

There could also be some new ideas coming from the top this week, as the Liberals are expected to include affordable housing in the throne speech when Parliament returns Wednesday.

Among the possibilities is a rapid-housing program that would allow cities and housing providers to purchase distressed assets like hotels and motels where an owner is forced to sell for pandemic-related reasons.

The CMHC has been looking at how that program could work, but Siddall would say only that it is the government’s decision to make.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has made housing affordability, which the federal agency had already made a priority, an even bigger issue.

CMHC estimates about $1 billion worth of mortgage payments were deferred each month during the pandemic, and fewer people will get ahead on their payments this year than in 2019.

The federal agency is striving to ensure everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that meets their needs by 2030.

“It’s all about making sure people understand that housing affordability should be what we all care about. It’s good for our country. It’s good for an economy,” Siddall said.

He brushed off criticism that CMHC has a bias against home ownership, but he said there needs to be a limit to how far the agency will go to help people get into the market.

“People who want to ease credit standards and push debt higher in order to buy houses are only lining their own pockets because they’re not helping the people they’re purporting to help,” he said.

“They’re actually making houses more expensive. It’s really simple economics.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
EDITORIAL: The power of a single vote

In the Oct. 24 British Columbia election, every vote is important

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Kelowna RCMP investigating unexplained death of cattle

Cattle found dead near gravel road, east of the Kelowna Airport

From right to left: Silverado Socrates (Independent), Norm Letnick (Liberal), John Janmaat (Green) and Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian). (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-Lake Country candidates square off at forum

All candidates in the riding were in attendance except for BC NDP candidate Justin Kulik

Vernon Fire Rescue Services work to put out a structure fire in an abandoned house on Highway 97 and 39th Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
UPDATE: Vernon house fire under control

Single-lane traffic remains in effect on Highway 97 in both directions

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen is launching an initiative to provide horse-assisted therapy to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (Black Press file photo)
Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen to provide horse-assisted therapy

Therapy sessions will be offered to frontline workers during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
‘This is a big outdoor space’: Grand Forks man behind backyard party to fight COVID tickets

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Paul Singla walks towards his Penticton home on Heather Road in 2018 after CBSA officers raided it. (File photo)
Singla and Toor make first court appearances on immigration fraud

The Okanagan men had their cases adjourned until 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Most Read