OTTAWA — Municipal leaders want the federal government to speed up its vaunted infrastructure plan so cities don’t have to wait 10 years for badly needed housing cash.
The Liberal budget this year set aside $11.2 billion to tackle a growing need for affordable housing in Canada’s cities, with most of the money not set to flow until after 2022.
That’s part of $81.2 billion the Liberals earmarked for the next phase of their infrastructure program.
The government is working out the details, such as what projects will be eligible for the cash, through ongoing talks with provinces and territories.
Representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities are sitting down with cabinet ministers to urge the Liberals to find a way to shift spending forward.
"We’ve been talking about this affordable housing crisis, and particularly (the) social housing crisis, for almost a decade and we can’t wait for year 11 of the $81-billion plan to really see dollars flow," Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview.
"There’s an opportunity to act with more urgency for housing, and so we’ll continue to press that point."
Iveson, who chairs the federation’s big-city mayors caucus, said he and other city leaders plan to make housing and infrastructure a key theme with cabinet ministers taking part in the federation’s annual meeting in the national capital.
Cities have projects ready to go to either upgrade the existing stock of affordable housing, some of which is in desperate need of repair, or build new units to alleviate long waiting lists for units in the country’s biggest cities.
Without details about the federal program, those projects can’t move forward, Iveson said.
The money can’t flow without provinces signing on to funding agreements.
The Liberals intend to cover up to 40 per cent of municipal projects under the upcoming phase of the plan, and mayors are hoping provinces agree to cover a similar share of the cost.
Iveson said the federal government will need to make that case despite the fact that provinces are wrestling with their own complicated political and fiscal realities.