B.C. housing minister calls on Ottawa to tie housing funding to immigrant arrivals

Click to play video: 'Record immigration prompts calls for more support for newcomers'
Record immigration prompts calls for more support for newcomers
WATCH: In 2022, Canada set a new immigration record, with more than 430,000 people arriving. As Richard Zussman reports, provincial authorities and advocacy groups are calling for more federal spending and support for those newcomers. – Jan 3, 2023

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is calling on Ottawa to tie housing funding directly to the number of immigrants moving to each province.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a record 431,645 permanent residents immigrated to Canada last year.

Other than Quebec, the provinces have little control of how many new immigrants arrive in a province and what areas of the province they move to.

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A significant increase in needed immigration has put additional pressure on housing and healthcare.

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“The time has come for the federal government to actually tie immigration numbers to affordable housing targets and as well as new housing starts so we can ensure the people here have the supports for healthcare and housing, and new immigrants are supported as well,” Kahlon said.

“We know how big a challenge this is in communities across the province.”

The federal government currently does not provide specific financial support to provinces based on how many people arrive in a province.

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Ottawa is targeting 465,000 new immigrants in 2023, 485,000 new arrivals in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.

British Columbia is not just dealing with new immigrants, but a surge in temporary visitors and migration from other provinces.

The temporary visitors include international students and temporary foreign workers.

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In just the first three quarters of 2022, the latest information B.C. has, more than 123,000 people arrived in the province.

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“We need people for our economy. At the same time it is putting pressure on our housing,” Kahlon said.

“None of this can be done without the federal government coming in with substantial investments.”

Immigrant Services Society of B.C. chief operating officer Chris Friesen told Global News the resource challenge is faced by all jurisdictions.

With an aging population in Canada, the country needs immigration desperately but the challenges emerge primarily around housing.

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Friesen said one of the issues for new immigrants is they have very little information about moving to smaller communities, where housing may be more plentiful.

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The even bigger challenge is governments have not laid out enough of a plan for how to house new arrivals, he said.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the multi-year levels plan and the available housing stock for immigrants and refugees,” Friesen said.

“This is a problem we all need to face.”

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