Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation—Native Inter-Tribal Housing Cooperative

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The holiday season should be a joyous, compassionate time, but for 26 First Nation families in London, Ontario, the new year may bring homelessness. The Native Inter-Tribal Housing Cooperative, home to 58 families and more than 200 people, is teetering on the brink as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is set to end its subsidy for many of the units in 2013.

An independent analysis by the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, the national voice for the Canadian cooperative housing movement and the more than one quarter of a million Canadians who live in them, indicates that the Native Inter-Tribal Housing Cooperative will not be viable without that assistance. The co-op does not receive a large amount of money from CMHC, only $257,000, to support 30 of its units. By comparison, the drivers here on the Hill, who are working overtime, received $600,000 in overtime pay during the same period.

The Minister responsible for CMHC, Diane Finley, can intervene and ensure that the families have roofs over their heads come the new year. The question is: Will she?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I will take that question as notice. I know that there has been some action taken on this file.

Senator Munson: I appreciate that. I hope that means that the leader will talk to someone in cabinet to have this resolved before the new year comes.

The CMHC has callously said that, once the mortgages are paid, the co-op no longer qualifies for a subsidy. However, they do not account for the maintenance or repair costs for the units, which date back to the 1980s, nor for the taxes and utilities. If the co-op is left to cover these costs on its own, it may be driven into bankruptcy.

From an article in The London Free Press earlier this week, we learned of a 62-year-old resident of Langarth Street, Mr. Lawrence Summers, who has lived at the co-op for 25 years and now faces the prospect of having to move. Mr. Summers is about to see his rent skyrocket from $330 to $600 per month. Mr. Summers, who lives on a disability income of $1,274 a month, said:

I don’t know what I will do. Where else can I get a home? If I lose my subsidy, I am not sure where I will go.

Honourable senators, what will Mr. Summers do? Where else can he get a home?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I just received a note with regard to the Native Inter-Tribal Housing Co-Operative in London. CMHC did provide a mortgage subsidy for the duration of the mortgage on that property. Through the Economic Action Plan, additional funding was provided for renovations.

With regard to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s support for cooperatives, we provided significant funding to support over 600,000 households in subsidized housing, including cooperatives. Canada Mortgage and Housing provides access to low-interest-rate mortgages for social housing cooperatives. These mortgages are closed in exchange for lower-than-private-sector rates. Through the Economic Action Plan, we invested in over 1,300 social housing renovation projects, with a combined investment creating and renovating over 16,500 low-income housing units.

Honourable senators, despite what the honourable senator claims, there has been great progress made by our government in this area.

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, I do not know about “great”, but progress has been made. I am talking specifically about the particular situation of this housing cooperative. No Canadian should be left without a roof over his or her head.

The leader said that she would take the question as notice. I hope that specific attention will be paid to the people who live in the Native Inter-Tribal Housing Cooperative.

Senator LeBreton: If there is more information on that particular cooperative, I will be happy to share it with honourable senators.