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

paintearth
County of Paintearth council approves changes to Health and Safety policies

The policies were last reviewed and approved by council on Sept. 15th, 2017

Nate Horner
Nate Horner stops by Castor’s Paintearth Lodge on Oct. 19th

Another hot topic during the discussion was the visitor restrictions put in place to protect the residents

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

doc
Online program helps residents live well with chronic disease

Six-week series of free workshops runs Tuesdays in November and December

county
After unsuccessful attempts to contact owner, Throne property going to tax sale

Bidding will be closed as of the first council meeting in February of 2021

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read