Governments overlooking the other housing crisis in Canada: Long Term Care

In a move designed to address the rising cost of living, the federal government removed the GST from all new rental housing construction. This is good news for a generation of young people that is being priced out of the housing market. But it doesn’t help another generation that has been experiencing its very own housing crisis for years now. Where are the measures designed to spur infrastructure renewal or new construction in long term care?

The September announcement said that the 100 per cent GST rebate applies to all new rental housing construction that begins before the end of 2030. Meanwhile, in seniors’ housing, by 2030, it’s estimated that Canadians over 65 years old will make up 22.5 per cent of the population. Continued inaction will keep an entire generation, this time seniors, from getting the housing and care they need.

Getting seniors into safe and comfortable housing has always been a top advocacy priority for CALTC. That’s why we have called for long-overdue infrastructure renewal in long term care. Many homes throughout the country were built decades ago. They no longer reflect our modern standards that have evolved to include infection prevention and control measures, and a respect for privacy and comfort.

Making sure seniors have a cozy, caring home as they age is decent and right. But funding new projects is a challenge. Renovations and new construction are expensive and long-term care homes must secure this funding themselves. Contrary to popular belief, provincial governments do not give them capital financing. While some provinces have taken steps to offer subsidies or financial assistance, other provinces do not, leaving a patchwork system across the country where homes still struggle to support infrastructure development.

Accessing capital funding used to be easier. Decades ago, long term care homes would access capital funding through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Through a mortgage program or as a reinsurer of capital loans, taking the CMHC route allowed us to develop a large portion of the long-term care homes that we currently have in Canada.

But things have changed. Now, to access capital financing, homes need to be able to off-set borrowing risks with assets. Many do not have sufficient assets to obtain capital financing for re-development or new development of a home on their own.

Further complicating matters is the fact that long-term care homes are often not viewed as homes when it comes to funding — despite being homes to thousands of seniors throughout the country. This has meant that long-term care homes have been unable to access federal infrastructure funding, federal housing funding, green infrastructure dollars and a slew of other funding opportunities.

The federal government has committed to making seniors care and housing a priority. Here are three ways they can start to address this problem and build the long-term care homes our seniors need.

  • First, the CHMC should renew the program that gave homes a pathway to secure capital financing. And if that’s not an option, the federal or provincial governments could launch a new program that offers loans or mortgages.
  • Second, the federal government should extend GST rebates to any new long-term care development or infrastructure update. With inflationary cost pressures, this would be a giant step to making these projects more manageable for homes.
  • Finally, the federal government should make infrastructure funding streams available to long term care homes. Treating them differently than other homes, from a funding perspective, has never made sense.

The federal government and provincial and territorial governments can work together to prevent another housing crisis from developing. As waitlists grow across Canada and our population is projected to age, we can’t put this off. The current housing crisis is an affordability emergency, but a long-term care housing crisis is an altogether different emergency. Without the means to update and build the long-term homes we need, our seniors’ safety is at risk. 

Adding to the need for new and better homes are the coming national standards. Released by the Health Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Association – and supported by the federal government – the national standards for long-term care simply can’t be met in many of our long term care homes as they are today. To bring these standards into effect and ensure the safety of our seniors, we need changes.

There is a window for action on long term care infrastructure renewal, but it is closing quickly.

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