Hon. Judi Longfield (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to those of my colleagues who will be speaking against the proposed Bill C-363, a bill that would amend section 29 of the CMHC Act to require Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to distribute surpluses from its reserve fund to the provinces.
Housing means more to Canadians than just four walls and a roof over their heads. It is one of the key building blocks around which most of us build our lives, like access to education, good health care and employment. Having a safe and affordable home is a cornerstone that enables us to go out into the world and to prosper in our jobs, support and care for our families, and build the vibrant communities and strong economy upon which this great nation is based.
It is important to recognize, however, that housing needs of Canadians are as diverse as the faces of Canada itself: youth, new Canadians, single mothers, women escaping violence, young families, seniors, persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and individuals living in northern and remote communities. With all of these groups there is a wide range of needs.
Our government's approach is to view housing as a continuum. Through our national homelessness initiatives, communities are given the opportunity to build on their successes and focus on interventions to help prevent and break the cycle of homelessness. Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, we seek to address a wide range of needs, from emergency shelter and assisted housing to access to market housing and independent, reliable information on the latest market trends and advances in housing technology.
Because of this need for diversity, we work with a wide range of partners. Playing a leadership role, CMHC collaborates with all levels of government, as well as with the private and non-profit sectors and community organizations, to develop workable solutions that speak to the needs of Canadians both today and tomorrow. Our vision of housing in Canada is broad and it is constantly evolving.
What does this mean for the young Canadian family looking to buy their first home or for the single mother hoping to get assisted housing with her children so she can go back to school for more training? What does it mean for the older couple living on a fixed income who need to make adaptations so that they can live in their homes independently? It means many things, but for starters it means an expanding range of mortgage insurance products that help make home ownership more affordable for Canadians. CMHC has a long history of innovation in mortgage loan insurance and in securitization that translates into products and services designed to meet the ever changing needs and lifestyles of Canadians across the country, as well as keeping financing for home ownership and rental development accessible and affordable.
In April of this year, CMHC introduced an impressive package of mortgage loan enhancements and benefits that continue to make it easier for homebuyers to take their first step into the market. This includes a further 15% reduction in mortgage loan insurance premiums for homebuyers with as little as 5% down. This is CMHC's second premium reduction for home owners in two years.
For that young family I mentioned a moment ago, these changes result in significant changes that may allow them to enter the housing market earlier and at interest rates comparable to those financing their homes with a down payment of 25% or more. This will help to get them started sooner on the path to financial security and to direct their resources toward other things, such as saving for their children's college or university educations.
As first time homebuyers assuming $125,000 CMHC-insured mortgage with a 5% down payment, a family will save $600 on the purchase of their new home thanks to the 2005 April announcements. If we were to combine the saving with the premium reduction CMHC announced two years ago, they stand to save a total of $1,200 on the purchase of their home.
The improvements do not stop there. CMHC also eliminated its mortgage insurance premiums on rental projects under both phases of the affordable housing initiative and other projects with rents that are low enough to meet the needs of households who qualify for social housing. This will result in significant savings to sponsor groups.
Housing sponsors, in addition to saving in the order of $300,000 on a $5 million loan with a value of 95%, will also be able to continue to benefit from the access of financing which mortgage insurance assures and corresponding lower interest rates.
Premium reductions of an additional 20% were also announced in April for affordable housing rental projects that met the criteria for CMHC's partnership flexibilities. On a project with a $5 million loan and on a loan to value ratio of 95%, this could amount to a savings of almost $100,000. These are substantial savings which sponsors can reinvest in quality housing projects or to use to make more units of assisted housing available.
These changes are in addition to the $1.8 billion our government is currently directly investing in housing projects for the benefit of all Canadians. In addition to the $1 billion for the federal affordable housing initiative, $405 million has been added to the supporting communities partnership initiative, or SCPI, and $384 million has extended the residential rehabilitation assistance program, RRAP.
Approximately $2 billion a year is spent on housing assistance, primarily in support of some 633,000 lower income households.
I am happy to say that for the single mother I described a few minutes ago, finding good quality assisted housing where she can afford to live safely with her children is more accessible, in part, through these programs. They can help her get on her feet and help her with her dream of picking up her education so she can work in a job she finds more fulfilling and to provide greater flexibility and security for her family.
We are also making excellent progress in moving the affordable housing initiative forward. Agreements have been signed with all jurisdictions for the first phase of the initiative, and eight provinces have now signed affordable housing agreements with the federal government.
What about those older low income couples who need to put new roofs on their houses? CMHC is making a difference for them as well. The funds available through the residential rehabilitation assistance program will help some of them, not all of them, with the costs of these repairs.
Because the housing challenges on reserves are unlike those faced by any other segment of our population, the government is also committed to improving on reserve housing conditions for aboriginal people by investing $295 million over a period of five years, of which $200 million will be invested in the first two years. The funding will help to build 6,400 new housing units and renovate 1,500 existing units.
The additional investment of $1.6 billion announced to assist Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians, in finding a safe and affordable place to call home will allow us to further address the housing gap faced by aboriginal Canadians. This will help us to begin the true transformative change that is required to help build a solid platform for longer term sustainable solutions from the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable.
The federal government has a responsibility to help meet the housing needs of all Canadians.
Bill C-363 zeros in on only one part of the housing continuum, assisted social housing. It overlooks the real need to make housing more available and affordable for Canadians of all income levels, including those with special needs and those who need special housing.
In addition, the bill chooses only one delivery method, that of the provinces. In reality, it takes many partners to meet the diverse housing needs of Canadians. As I mentioned earlier, CMHC works in close partnership with a wide variety of industry, non-profit and community organizations to make a choice of innovative, affordable housing solutions available to all Canadians.
In fact, we have recently held a series of national consultations to gain a better understanding of the housing affordability challenges facing Canadians. These consultations will guide us in the development of a partnership based Canada housing framework that builds on the successes of our existing programs and introduces new initiatives.
Once in place, the framework will serve as a guiding plan for all new federal investments in housing, one that recognizes the housing needs of all Canadians, and which is based on the collaborations and successes we already have achieved. Most important, it will seek to build on and foster partnerships with all levels of government.
While the interest of the member opposite in housing is commendable, I would have felt a little happier if he had felt the necessity to support Bill C-48, which added $1.6 billion into the housing economy.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act