Transparency needed in fight to end homelessness

Federal housing strategy

Any resident in Kelowna-Lake Country is all too familiar with the increasing scale of chronic homelessness in our community and our country.

The source of Canada’s housing crisis varies widely, including increasing housing costs, sudden job loss, mental health and addiction challenges. The face of it is evident to everyone—increased burdens on public resources, small businesses and not-for-profits, more people living in shelters and tent cities and, unfortunately, increased suffering.

The federal government's solution, a 10-year, $78.5 billion National Housing Strategy, has recently come under fire from Karen Hogan, the non-partisan Auditor General of Canada, for missing its targets and lacking the data to demonstrate results.

The AGs office dug into the results of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Infrastructure Canada's $3.5 billion Reaching Home Program to curb homelessness in Canada, with a crushing report.

Reaching 64 communities around Canada with this program, the government set itself a target of curbing 50% of chronic homelessness by 2028. Yet, the lack of identifiable results does not demonstrate the government even knows how close it is to accomplishing that goal. In fact, recent reports in Kelowna state shelters are at capacity and there is an increase in homelessness.

The report stated the agencies responsible for these programs did not know whether their efforts improved housing outcomes for people experiencing homelessness and did not know whether homelessness had increased or decreased since 2019, as a result of billions spent.

The CMHC could not say, as a result of the $9 billion spent, who benefited from its initiatives because it did not measure changes in housing outcomes.

Its programs often housed vulnerable individuals and families in "affordable" rental units that ended up unaffordable for their income level. Worst of all, despite being designated as the lead for the National Housing Strategy and Reaching Home programs, the CMHC and Infrastructure Canada refused to take accountability for not addressing chronic homelessness, instead passing the buck to provinces, municipalities and not-for-profits.

Much of this dodging of blame likely stems from the AG identifying a wide gap in the data collection. The agencies responsible have produced no findings on homelessness since March 2020 and the data for 2019-2020 is contradictory, showing both an increase and decrease in homelessness.

Compounding this confusion is the admission they do not analyze any up-to-date national shelter-use data or properly share program results across departments. It will be impossible for us to find success in getting people off the streets if government departments silo their findings from each other while not correctly looking at the information that front-line shelters are providing them.

The report shows a lack of transparency, accountability, oversight, good governance and basic project and fiscal management on the part of the federal government. The results of years of photo ops and billions spent are clear. Housing prices have doubled since 2015, the dream of home ownership is only a dream for many and people are struggling to just afford to keep a roof over their head.

The government needs to provide a full account of its $78.5 billion housing strategy. I’ll be pressing the government on this important issue and will have more to report.

If you need assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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