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Ottawa taking steps to support military personnel who need housing: defence minister

Concerns about military housing highlighted by a suggestion that Habitat for Humanity be contacted
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The federal government has a national housing strategy to address housing shortages and has committed additional funds in the spring budget for military members and their families, Defence Minister Anita Anand said in Victoria on Tuesday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The federal government has more work to do to support Canadian Armed Forces members who are struggling to find housing, Defence Minister Anita Anand said in Victoria on Tuesday.

A recent email encouraging Canadian Armed Forces members to consider contacting Habitat for Humanity for affordable housing shed light on how rising home and rental prices are affecting military personnel.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers help build homes for those who can’t afford one in the current housing market.

Defence Minister Anita Anand, who was touring the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on Tuesday, said the government has taken several steps to help address affordability concerns for military members and their families.

The federal government has a national housing strategy to address housing shortages and has committed additional funds in the spring budget for military members and their families, “who make incredible sacrifices to serve Canada,” said Anand.

In February 2021, the federal government increased military members’ rates of pay to align with other in creases received by federal public service employees.

The federal government also implemented an interim relocation policy to enable remote-work options and ensure members posted to a region with a cost of living above the national average receive a differential allowance to offset the increased costs.

Housing shortages are a problem across the country, said Anand.

The email suggesting military members consider contacting Habitat for Humanity for affordable housing was sent by a senior officer at 19 Wing Comox to other members at the Royal Canadian Air Force base on northern Vancouver Island. Its crews carry out surveillance missions and search and rescue operations from the base, which is home to a search and rescue school.

“Further to our discussion this morning, one potential housing option for our folks is Habitat for Humanity,” said the email dated May 5.

“Should this be of interest to any of your personnel, please have them review the information located here.”

Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande has said members were not being directed to Habitat for Humanity; it was being presented as an option to those having “significant difficulty” finding housing.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre warned last month that his troops were feeling the bite of escalating prices of housing and other costs of living as a result of their unique lifestyle, which includes constant moves throughout their careers.

At the same time, Eyre lamented a shortage of military housing, saying: “Now we’re somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4,000 to 6,000 units short on our bases, which is also accentuating the housing problem.”

Many bases have military housing.

But even as internal Defence Department assessments have repeatedly asserted since 2017 that at least 5,000 more units are needed to meet the military’s growing requirements, the number of homes owned by government has steadily decreased for years.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With files from The Canadian Press

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