Archbishop Andrew Hutchison

Canada is a rich country. Yet tens of thousands of people in this country live on the street, and millions are without affordable and adequate housing

Since the 1980s, deep cuts to federal and provincial government spending on affordable housing have exacerbated the affordable housing crisis in cities, towns and rural areas across Canada.

Citizens of all backgrounds and faiths have tried to pick up the slack. People from across our land, many of them members of churches, have given generously of their time, goods, money, and attention to support the most vulnerable in their communities – at food banks, community suppers, and shelter programs.

Yet we all know these acts of charity are not enough, for they do not bring about justice nor do they restore a person’s dignity. Without secure, affordable, and long-term housing, “home” for the people we serve will never be possible.

Many of our church members are involved in non-profit housing organizations and boards, and in on- and off-reserve housing organizations for Aboriginal peoples. We stand at the ready to work with governments at all levels to develop affordable housing that is so long overdue and so desperately needed

Since 1999, federal housing initiatives have flowed new money to some provinces. However, inter-governmental bickering and provincial cut backs have meant that far too few affordable housing units have been built in most provinces and territories.

Last July, Parliament approved a budget that included $1.6 billion over two years for new affordable housing for Aboriginal and low-income people. It was the single largest commitment of new housing dollars in more than ten years.

For almost eight months, this money has sat unallocated. Now, we are in danger of losing it. These funds may revert to the budget surplus, and not help homeless people directly at all.

We must all work together to help our neighbours without house and home. But we must also work to eradicate homelessness and housing deficits in the first place.

Churches, community groups, Aboriginal organizations along with many provincial and municipal governments have developed affordable housing plans that are ready to roll out and have a concrete impact on the lives of those facing homelessness.

It is in the power of our federal government to kick-start these plans immediately, by putting people before politics, and by honouring its 2005 financial commitment to affordable housing.

The Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison is Archbishop and Primate of The Anglican Church of Canada. This article (condensed here) appeared in the Globe and Mail and was based on a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The letter was also signed by Bishop Ray Schultz, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Moderator Peter Short, head of the United Church of Canada.