Federal government to launch $1.5B fund to protect affordable rentals

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a new $1.5-billion housing fund will help non-profit organizations acquire more rental units across Canada and make sure they remain affordable.

The new Canada Rental Protection Fund will be included in the upcoming federal budget, to be tabled on April 16.

The fund will provide $1 billion in loans and $470 million in contributions to non-profits and other partners to help them acquire affordable rental units.

An existing rental protection fund in British Columbia is a good “proof of concept” for the initiative, Trudeau told a news conference in Winnipeg.

“They recognize that for every new affordable rental home that is built in their province, four more are lost to investors, to conversions, to demolition, and to rent increases,” Trudeau said.

“And this is happening in communities right across the country.”

Thursday’s announcement was just the latest in a series of new housing measures unveiled by the Liberal government in its campaign-style pre-budget tour across the country.

“We have been and will be rolling out a series of policies designed to address Canada’s national housing crisis, culminating with the publication of a plan in advance of the federal budget,” said Housing Minister Sean Fraser.

Protecting and expanding the country’s rental stock has been a particular focus in recent months as Canadians face skyrocketing rents.

Advocates in the social housing and non-profit space have been calling for a mechanism to help them buy up affordable rentals that might otherwise be sold off to investors.

On Wednesday, Trudeau said the Liberals would add another $15 billion to an apartment construction loan program, bringing available funding to $55 billion.

The loan program was launched in 2017 and has helped create more than 48,000 homes so far. It’s aimed at building at least 131,000 apartments in the next decade.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a $6-billion infrastructure fund to support homebuilding and a $400 million top-up to the housing accelerator fund.

The Liberals say that funding for provinces and territories will come with conditions, including adopting the recently announced renters’ bill of rights and allowing fourplexes to be built on residential land in municipalities.

Premiers from several provinces, including Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, have slammed the federal government for overstepping into provincial jurisdiction.