Original Published on Nov 17, 2022 at 07:05

Is federal cash fixing N.W.T. homelessness? Departments don’t know

By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Canada’s auditor general says federal departments tasked with addressing the country’s housing crisis have not been collecting the data that would determine whether efforts are succeeding.  

In a report released on Tuesday, auditor general Karen Hogan also found that departments were not coordinating and working together to solve issues around housing. 

The departments involved include Infrastructure Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). 

The audit covered 2019 to 2021, which means the pandemic may have contributed to the issues involving data collection. But Hogan said the result is that Canada is unlikely to meet its target of halving chronic homelessness by 2028. 

Many programs run by the audited departments, such as Reaching Home, directly impact Northwest Territories efforts to address housing insecurity. Reaching Home is a funding pot that in part helps Indigenous and isolated communities to tackle homelessness, and Yellowknife has been a recipient of millions of dollars through the program.

Earlier this month, the city’s advisory board on homelessness voted to allocate $1.3 million in Reaching Home money toward a range of projects. 

Last week, Infrastructure Canada – through its Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund – announced it was giving $25.5 million to the Sahtu Secretariat, in part to address the housing crisis.

Despite such funding flowing fro departments, the audit found that none of them had the numbers to prove this money is having a positive impact on the people these dollars are intended to help. 

While CMHC has been leading Canada’s national housing strategy, according to the report, the agency “took the position that it was not directly accountable for addressing chronic homelessness.”

“Infrastructure Canada was also of the view that while it contributed to reducing chronic homelessness, it was not solely accountable for achieving the strategy’s target of reducing chronic homelessness,” a summary of the report continued.

“This meant that despite being a federally established target, there was minimal federal accountability for its achievement.”

Other documented concerns include the approval of funding for rental housing that turned out to be unaffordable for most of the vulnerable groups the departments are required to support. 

Speaking to the House of Commons as the report was tabled, Hogan called for increased oversight of spending and data collection regarding housing. 

“One of my biggest concerns is the lack of federal accountability for achieving Canada’s target to reduce chronic homelessness by half by 2028,” she said.

“Infrastructure Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should be coordinating their efforts to deliver on the National Housing Strategy’s objectives and get a roof over the heads of individuals and families.”

The report was one of four published on Tuesday. Others included reviews of Canadian cybersecurity, Arctic surveillance, and support for Indigenous communities facing extreme events such as flooding and wildfires.

This item reprinted with permission from   Cabin Radio   Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories

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