Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lack of affordable housing and efficient transit barriers to success of immigrants and the economy

OTTAWA, September 14, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The lack of affordable housing and access to efficient public transit and community services are significant barriers to the success of new immigrants and the Canadian economy, says the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in a report on Canada's immigration system.

"To keep its economy strong, Canada needs an immigration strategy that meets growing on-the-ground challenges and gives cities and communities a seat at the table," said FCM president Berry Vrbanovic. ''Without a decent place to live, an affordable and reliable way to get to and from work, and access to front-line community services immigrants will continue to fall behind and Canada will not meet its economic and social objectives."

According to FCM's report, new immigrants are falling behind other Canadians in their income and job opportunities. Overcrowded road and public transit systems are crumbling and a growing shortage of affordable housing threatens to price more immigrants out of the regional labour markets where they are needed most. Ottawa's language and job-training programs are falling behind changing settlement patterns, leaving communities big and small without the resources to meet changing local needs.

"Municipalities are the front-line, first-responders for many immigrants' needs, yet we collect just eight cents of every tax-dollar paid in Canada and have been given no formal role in developing federal immigration policies and programs," said FCM vice-president Claude Dauphin. "The federal government must recognize municipalities as key partners in immigrant settlement and work with us to tailor solutions to local needs."

FCM called on the federal government to protect long-term investments in communities, including more than $500 million in annual housing investments scheduled to expire during the next decade; protect and build on recent investments in Canada's infrastructure and public transit; work with municipalities, provinces and territories to design longer-term settlement programs that respond better to changing local needs; and collect data on immigrants' needs and report back to Canadians on the results.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901. FCM represents with close to 90 per cent of the Canadian population - close to 2000 municipal governments across the country.