What Does The Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Mean To Ontarians
How does the strategy help Ontarians?
The strategy is transforming the housing system so that it puts people first.
The long-term strategy includes new legislation, the Housing Services Act, 2011, which provides municipalities, who deliver housing services, the flexibility to better use resources to meet different needs in their communities. Tenants will have new opportunities to save money to build better futures and improve their access to housing programs.
Under the strategy, the province will also partner with municipalities to urge the federal government to commit to flexible, long-term funding, which is integral to the success of affordable housing in Ontario.
What does giving municipalities more flexibility mean for Ontarians?
Flexible funding is a key part of our strategy to put people first.
Today, there is a patchwork of more than 20 provincial housing and homeless programs that operate independently, have unnecessary, rigid rules and can be difficult for people to access. Under the strategy, some of these programs will be consolidated or harmonized and municipalities will have flexibility to use housing funding to target the specific needs of local communities, instead of being bound by overly restrictive, program-specific guidelines.
For example, funding that now must only be used for emergency shelter beds could instead be used to provide more stable housing. Furthermore, tax dollars could be used more efficiently as any remaining funds could be used to provide additional supports to further help families and individuals get ahead.
How does the strategy help low-income tenants?
In addition to a flexible funding approach that better addresses people’s needs, the strategy helps low-income tenants in a number of ways:
- Moving to a much simpler annual rent-geared-to-income calculation process. These changes will aim to reduce administrative burden on tenants, housing providers, and Service Managers, and increase fairness and equity in calculating RGI assistance across the province. The province is working with municipalities, tenants and housing organizations to thoroughly analyze potential changes to the RGI calculation process, before putting new rules into place.
- Extending the timeline from ten days to thirty days for tenants to provide updated information on their eligibility for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance to Service Managers. This helps vulnerable tenants to maintain their RGI assistance.
- Launching a new asset building pilot program to help tenants living in social housing save money for specific purposes, such as education or training, without reducing their rent-geared-to-income assistance. This could remove disincentives to employment and create education opportunities.
- Providing tenants with an option to appeal social housing decisions through a new local review process, which municipalities are required to establish.
- Giving Service Managers more flexibility to design a waiting list system that responds to local priorities. The province also continues to give victims of domestic violence priority on social housing lists.
- While municipalities already have a range of planning and financial tools to encourage affordable housing, the long-term strategy amends the Planning Act to require municipalities to establish policies allowing second units, which will help increase affordable housing options for families. Second units are private, self-contained with their own kitchen or bathroom, either located in a house or as accessory units such as above laneway garages.
How will the government make sure that housing funding is used appropriately and effectively?
Under the Housing Services Act, 2011, Service Managers are required to develop comprehensive, long-term local housing and homelessness plans in consultation with local citizens and housing partners, to be in place by January 1, 2014.
These plans must identify key community priorities and how to better tailor housing resources to help people in need. These local plans, along with the strategy’s accountability framework, provide the foundation for how consolidated housing and homeless programs will support local communities and get better outcomes for people.
Ontarians want to know their tax dollars are getting results. The province will report annually on progress on housing and homelessness using a series of performance indicators. Service Managers will also publicly report on a series of measures to track progress in meeting local needs.
What is the federal government’s role in addressing the long-term housing needs of Ontarians?
Ontario has often partnered with the federal government to ensure that Ontarians have more access to affordable housing. However, current federal government funding is either short-term or declining. This limits the ability of housing providers to plan for the long-term and fully participate in initiatives that provide affordable housing.
Ontario will partner with municipalities to engage the provinces, territories and the federal government to create a housing framework for Canada that includes long-term flexible funding for affordable housing. This will include maintaining or restoring lost federal operating funds for social housing.