Monday, November 29, 2010

Ontario's Housing Minister Releases Report on Affordable Housing

Remember a year ago when there were public meetings on the issue of long-term affordable housing, I think Jim Watson was Minister at the time?  Well today Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing released the results of the cross-province meetings that were designed to create solutions to the problems of long-term affordable housing.  The initiatives are mostly for social housing landlords with changes to the Social Housing Reform Act, but it seems that they might also force municipalities to allow fully enclosed second suites, something that currently is outlawed in many places.  That's a good thing for small landlords, and probably good for affordable housing.

ONPHA, the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has given the proposals their support on the SHRA initiatives, but comments quite fairly that what the system needs is more money, not just autonomy for municipalities to decide on how to run their programs.  Quoting ONPHA's Executive Director:

"This strategy, and the accompanying legislative reforms, should create much needed local flexibility; allowing communities to better engage the power of community-based non-profit housing providers in meeting local housing needs.  ONPHA's members have long advocated for increased flexibility as a central requirement to improve local housing outcomes and it is encouraging to see this reflected in the strategy."

There are some rumblings that when this bill is introduced, the government might try to sneak in some changes to the Residential Tenancies Act dealing with other residential tenancy issues as governments are sometimes prone to do.  Here's the announcement posted today on the government's web site:

Families in need of affordable housing will soon have access to a more flexible, coordinated and supportive system that is focused on people first.

Ontario's Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy will address the unique needs of individuals and communities by building a strong foundation that is based on four key pillars: putting people first, creating strong partnerships, supporting affordable options and accountability.

"As part of the strategy, the Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act will be introduced today. It would, if passed, reduce barriers to affordable housing by:
  • Consolidating Ontario's housing and homelessness programs to give municipalities the flexibility to use funding to address local needs
  • Simplifying the rent-geared-to-income calculation process so that most tenants would only declare their income once a year. This could allow them to use the extra money to improve their standard of living
  • Expanding affordable housing options by requiring municipalities to set policies that would allow second units in new and existing developments
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of municipalities and the province to create stronger partnerships and greater accountability
Today's legislation, if passed, would also commit the province and municipalities to report on key performance indicators including how the strategy is working for those with housing needs. This is an important part of the Open Ontario plan to break the cycle of poverty.

The future of affordable housing depends on flexible, sustained funding. Ontario will work with municipalities to engage the federal government to commit to stable, long-term funding."

Expect the introduction of legislation shortly.  There are some additional details of the government's plans at the link below:

More Info on Ontario Government Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy

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