Skip to content

‘Canada Builds’ announcements made by Feds in Regina

Federal Liberal ministers Patty Hajdu and Arif Virani make pre-budget announcement on new Canada Builds program, plus $15 million top-up to Apartment Construction Loan Program.

REGINA - Two federal Liberal cabinet ministers were in Regina Wednesday making a pre-budget announcement on housing funding from the federal government.

Arif Virani, Minister of Justice, and Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada and minister for FedNor, made two announcements while in Regina. Hajdu confirmed that the 2024 budget would propose a new program Canada Builds. 

She said this is the federal government’s “way to leverage the $55 billion Apartment Construction Loan Program and ideally partner with provinces, territories, and municipalities to build more rental housing opportunities” across the country.

This program will be structured based on the BC Builds program, where that province and the Feds partnered on $2 billion in low cost financing through an apartment construction loan program to deliver thousands of new rental properties. Hajdu said under the new federal program, provinces and territories would be expected to meet the benchmarks of the BC Builds program, which would include cross-matching federal funding. The program would also streamline the approval of developments down to 12 to 18 months.

A second announcement, from Minister Virani, is that the federal government will top up the Apartment Construction Loan Program by an additional $15 billion, bringing it up to the $55 billion amount.

That top-up is designed to help the program reach a new target of 131,000 homes by 2032, up from a previous target of 100,000. The intention is to change the way the program will run by extending loan terms, extending access to financing housing for students and seniors, introducing a portfolio approach to eligibility requirements, providing flexibility on requirements on affordability as well as energy efficiency and accessibility, and launching a frequent builders stream to speed up the application process by approving builders with proven track records.

“Add this to the Canada Builds program… we have a powerful combination put in place to help bring down prices and help increase supply,” said Virani.

The announcements by Minister Hajdu and Virani on Wednesday were concurrent with a similar announcement made that day by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto to launch “Canada Builds” and also top-up the Apartment Construction Loan Program by an additional $15 billion. 

The backdrop of the Regina announcements was the North Central Family Centre’s Rapid Housing project on 1066-1076 Angus Street in Regina. The 30-unit structure, which NCFC will operate, is currently under construction and is being financially supported by all three levels of government.

The goal of Canada Builds, according to the federal government officials, is to address affordability in the housing sector — something the Feds have come under heavy political pressure to address as of late.

Virani acknowledged the issue and spoke of meeting with two University of Regina students that day, and learning of their struggles in looking for an apartment.

“They found, to their rude shock, that what was out there was either unsafe, unhygienic or 50 per cent marked up from the price are currently paid. So all those options were unattainable,” said Virani.

The justice minister said what they need to do is talk about things like the Rapid Housing Initiative, and to think about young people in “empowering them to find apartments, find affordable rental housing and find the ability to potentially one day even think about owning a home, which shouldn’t be this elusive sort of idea in Canada. It should be something that’s readily attainable.”

Hajdu said the announcements from the federal government were focused “on next steps on affordability — particularly making sure that the next generation have a hopefulness of having a place to live, being able to potentially own a home, finding a great job, and participating in reaching their full potential. And so the announcements this week have been focused on what more we can do to leverage federal investments, and to encourage provincial and municipal partners to step up and make sure that communities and regions of communities, in fact neighbourhoods and communities, have the same opportunities.”

Hajdu said their announcements that day are “really to help accelerate projects like this all across the country,” referring to the Angus Street project. “We know people have great ideas, we know the people have the ambition and the motivation to do these projects and have so much skin in the game when it comes to communities just like this one, and we want to make sure that we are a partner with that.”

Concerns from the province

There has been some resistance expressed from provinces about partnering up on the federal housing initiatives that have been announced. Among those expressing concerns has been Premier Scott Moe, who issued a statement on the federal government’s $6 billion housing funding announcement the previous day. 

Moe said “it appears as though the federal government is once again wading into provincial jurisdiction by taking once unrestricted infrastructure funding and tying it to housing requirements.”

In response, Minister Hajdu said: “It’s disappointing to hear a lack of enthusiasm for another $6 billion towards housing.”

Hajdu added “residents like the ones in this neighbourhood cannot afford to wait and they can’t afford to wait while provinces, territories, municipalities, and the federal government bicker.” 

She said “we are hoping” that provinces and territories will want to be a partner in spending the remaining $5 billion, but if those are not signed by the deadlines in January 2025 (provinces) and April 2025 (territories), “then we’ll work to deliver the rest of the money in partnership with municipalities who are by and large understanding the huge and enormous pressure for affordable housing by residents  across our communities.”

“Building housing for residents in Saskatchewan is not a partisan issue,” said Minister Virani. “It’s not about an issue of provincial-federal cooperation. It’s a priority, and it needs to be a priority for all levels of government. And what we’re saying by putting on the table yesterday $6.4 billion is that our hand is extended to people like Premier Moe. Our hand is extended to the goal we all share, regardless of where we are in this country, of building housing and building it quickly.”

He also reiterated what Hajdu said by indicating if the deals weren’t in place by January 2025, their "hand would be extended" to municipalities.