‘I’m extremely happy and proud to lead what is already an extremely talented team’

Hassan is the minister responsible for housing and homelessness; it’s his biggest job by far. We caught up with him to find out what he’s been doing and how he’s thinking about the challenges…

‘I’m extremely happy and proud to lead what is already an extremely talented team’

Hassan is the minister responsible for housing and homelessness; it’s his biggest job by far. We caught up with him to find out what he’s been doing and how he’s thinking about the challenges

Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen is sitting, chatting and relaxed. He seems at home.

Behind him, video screens are displaying statistics on homelessness. The government is using this information to spread information across the country, and to inform decisions on urban design and building standards.

Hassan has developed a real-world understanding of the government’s unique housing portfolio. As the only elected official from the Bedouin community in Canada, he’s been heavily involved in addressing the needs of Bedouin communities and refugees; he was recently appointed by prime minister Justin Trudeau to the status of women advisory council. In July he was also named to the cabinet of the first indigenous indigenous person to lead a Canadian jurisdiction – becoming minister of immigration and citizenship.

Morris Thurston’s Home Made Simple: Cook a menu from a used noticeboard Read more

The past year has seen a number of historic landmark changes in Canada. A recent referendum in British Columbia, for example, saw residents vote to remove the municipal designation of “outdoor arena” from schools in recognition of the importance of the “school as a place of healing”. The change has allowed for indigenous children to participate more fully in the curriculum; previous bans on that issue resulted in a substantial drop in attendance rates for many indigenous students.

Despite all this, the housing minister is still walking on air. “What I’m responsible for is the biggest public service budget in the country, it’s in excess of $20bn. I’m extremely happy and proud to lead what is already an extremely talented and progressive team.

I’m extremely happy and proud to lead what is already an extremely talented and progressive team Ahmed Hussen

“[But] the irony of that is the team I lead was just built five weeks ago. I became minister [for housing and homelessness] in a cabinet shuffle; a change in government can come and go and take years to fix and to reform … but it is what it is. We are starting a new chapter, and it’s the most exciting time in housing history in Canada.”

Recently, another new chapter was also born: Canada’s first national housing plan. Hassan has also just pushed through a housing strategy, the first to be made in more than 40 years, that aims to ensure the country has enough affordable housing for all citizens.

By 2020, Canada is expected to have completed more than 100,000 affordable rental units, and the ministry is also gearing up to implement a new Rent Act to standardise rent increases across the country. “We are working with developers to look at the amount of subsidy we’ll provide, to help build affordable housing. There’s a lot more work to do, but I’m very optimistic about the future of housing in Canada.”

Canada’s plan to restrict buying of homes with cash will force construction Read more

When I ask how he’s doing on his signature project: simplifying Canada’s development approvals process, he says he is “willing to work with the developer community to increase quality and decrease cost”.

His work is not complete. Hassen admits “we need to build new supply to meet demand” and that a much greater emphasis is being placed on tackling the cause of homelessness. But he is happy with what he has been able to accomplish, and with the priorities he is laying out.

“For example,” he says, “housing First [a long-term strategy aimed at providing housing for long-term homeless people] will never have a housing boom overnight. But when there’s a housing boom, my argument is to invest in human capital. It’s a long-term investment – and it’s also now about more clients and more resources.”

Do you have a job you’d like to tell us about? I’d love to hear from your inspiring story. I am a reporter for community news group CNZ, and I am starting to expand my reporting. Share your ideas or join in the debate below.

Leave a Comment