Chronic Homelessness

Opening Statement before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Chronic Homelessness

(Report 5—2022 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada)

29 November 2022

Karen Hogan, Fellow Chartered Professional AccountantFCPA, Fellow Chartered AccountantFCA
Auditor General of Canada

Mr. Chair, thank you for this opportunity to discuss our report on chronic homelessness, which was tabled in Parliament on November 15. I would like to acknowledge that this hearing is taking place on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. Joining me today are Casey Thomas and Sean MacLennan, who led this audit.

This audit examined whether Employment and Social Development Canada and Infrastructure Canada worked together to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness. We also wanted to know whether the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation delivered programs that improved housing outcomes for vulnerable Canadians, including those experiencing chronic homelessness.

We found that the organizations did not know whether efforts to date had improved housing outcomes for vulnerable Canadians. Infrastructure Canada did not have all the information it needed to know whether homelessness and chronic homelessness had increased or decreased since 2019. Where the department did have data, for example on the increased use of shelters by families since 2016, it did not analyze why this was occurring or whether there was a need to adjust its programs.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation did not know whether those most in need benefited from its housing initiatives. The corporation measured and reported on its outputs, such as the total number of units built, but it did not know how many people were being housed or which vulnerable groups were being helped. For example, it did not know whether units intended for persons with disabilities were in fact occupied by disabled persons. In addition, some rental housing units that the corporation considered affordable were often not affordable for low-income households and vulnerable groups.

One of my biggest concerns is the lack of federal accountability for achieving Canada’s target to reduce chronic homelessness by half by 2028. The National Housing Strategy was launched 5 years ago, in 2017, yet there is still no lead to achieve this target.

Despite being the lead for the National Housing Strategy and overseeing the majority of its funding, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation took the position that it was not directly accountable for addressing chronic homelessness. Infrastructure Canada was also of the view that while it contributed to reducing chronic homelessness, it was not solely accountable for achieving the strategy’s target of reducing chronic homelessness.

Infrastructure Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation were not coordinating their efforts to deliver on the National Housing Strategy’s objectives and get a roof over the heads of individuals and families. This was despite the organizations’ acknowledgement that collaboration and coordination both inside and outside the federal government are vital to addressing the housing needs of priority vulnerable groups.

Without a better alignment of efforts and clear accountability at the federal level, Infrastructure Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation are unlikely to meet the country’s target to reduce chronic homelessness by half by 2028.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.