Canada plans to convert public buildings into new 2,800 homes amid shortage

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Jean-Yves Duclos, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, takes part in a news conference

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Tuesday announced plans to convert six federal properties into 2,800 new homes by March and said it was accelerating a process to identify more public buildings for home conversion as the country grapples with a housing shortage.

The construction would include affordable housing and, combined with previously announced projects for the next five years, Ottawa is now on track to double the number of affordable homes built in the past 30 years, Public Services Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference.

"The housing crisis that we are living now is a product of decades of under-construction," Duclos told reporters in Ottawa. "In response to unprecedented housing needs throughout the country, many of these buildings can be transformed into safe, accessible and affordable homes."

The cities of Calgary and Edmonton in the western province of Alberta as well as Ottawa will see new homes built as part of the plans announced on Tuesday.

Housing supply has failed to keep up with Canada's immigration-fueled population growth, and affordability worsened during the coronavirus pandemic when housing prices soared due to high demand amid low borrowing costs.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as the Bank of Canada have said the country's housing crunch needs to be solved by increasing supply.

"We are at a moment where there is a broad recognition that collectively we have to have more urgency on building more housing supply," Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking alongside Duclos, said.

Freeland said Ottawa will continue to take action to help build more homes in the government's Fall Economic Statement, expected this month.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; editing by Jonathan Oatis)