Feds announce $176 million in housing deals with more than 60 rural communities

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Canadian Press

The federal government will roll out more than 60 housing agreements with small and rural communities across the country over the next few weeks, Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced on Feb. 13.

Fraser said in a news conference that the deals are worth $176 million and will help build more than 50,000 housing units over the next decade.

“What we’ve seen over the course of the past few years is more people have chosen to move to small towns,” Fraser said.

“We’re seeing the cost of rent has gone up dramatically as vacancy rates get lower. We see that the cost of purchasing a home is far greater today than it was even just a few years ago.”

Fraser said rural communities are being given more flexibility when it comes to their commitments in the agreements, in part because they have different capacities than larger municipalities.

Ottawa has been signing agreements directly with municipalities through its housing accelerator fund, which offers money in exchange for changes to bylaws and regulations that would support more homebuilding.

Municipalities were invited to apply for the federal fund with a plan on how they intend to ramp up construction in their communities.

The Liberal government has pitched the fund as a key pillar of its economic plan as it faces political pressure to address the country’s housing crisis.

Fraser said on top of the deals for smaller communities, the federal government has reached 36 agreements to date that will help construct more than 500,000 housing units over the next decade.

That includes a deal with the city of Ottawa worth $176 million announced on Monday.

Out of the $4-billion housing accelerator fund, about $640 million remains available to municipalities that have not yet signed agreements, said a spokesman for Fraser.

The announcement came during Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s weekly news conference on the Liberals’ economic agenda.

The weekly update was brought in during the fall as part of the Liberals’ push to sell its own policies to Canadians at a time when support for the party is tanking.

The news conferences typically include minor announcements and offer an opportunity for ministers to spotlight previously announced measures.

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault highlighted that the federal government has increased student loan forgiveness for rural nurses and doctors by 50 per cent to increase health-care services in these communities.

The increase means family doctors and nurses in rural communities are eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $60,000 and $30,000, respectively.

The change took effect last year.

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