Friday, April 1, 2011

Public Input Ends re: Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act

Yesterday was the final date for submissions on Bill 140, the Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act.  This Act will amend several acts such as the Planning act, and replace the Social Housing Reform Act with the new Housing Services Act.  Acts affected include:

City of Toronto Act, 2006
Municipal Act, 2001
Planning Act
Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
Social Housing Reform Act, 2000

When the Bill was first introduced it disappointed the social housing community as there was no money or new spaces for rent geared to income units.  The Bill was introduced after a cross-province tour with stakeholder meetings conducted by the previous Minister Jim Watson. I attended one of the meetings and was optimistic at the time.  Seeing the Bill, it is now my opinion that it was just a show, as nothing came of it.  Here is a summary of high-level changes:

Bill 140 would, if passed, repeal the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000 and enact the Housing Services Act, 2010. The legislation relates to the provision of housing and homelessness services under provincial oversight. Among other measures, the proposed legislation:

·         sets out defined matters of “provincial interest” relating to housing and homelessness services and provides for Ministerial policy statements on such matters;

·         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

·         requires prescribed housing and homelessness plans to address the matters of provincial interest and be consistent with the Ministerial policy statements;

·         provides for the designation of “service managers” (i.e. a municipality or a district social services administration board) and their service areas and will provide them with more autonomy than currently available under SHRA;

·         sets out the general powers and duties of service managers, including reporting to the Minister and public; and sets out the rules governing the operation of defined “local housing corporations”

·         defines and addresses the operation of both “rent-geared-to-income assistance” and “special needs housing”, including minimum prescribed service levels.

·         amends the Planning Act to eliminate municipal prohibitions on second fully-contained units within a home in an effort to increase housing stock

·         simplifies administration and allows municipal partners to more effectively manage their services to meet the true needs of their communities

The Bill has now passed second reading and just finished debate and public deputations at standing committee.  Two years after the cross-province meetings, it is now Minister Bartolucci who is in charge.  A centerpiece of the new legislation is changes to the Planning Act to resolve the issue of second auxiliary suites in detached houses.  Currently it's all over the map with most municipalities not allowing second suites.  The changes to the Planning Act will take that power away from municipalities and require them to permit such living arrangements.  The government is hoping that this will open up thousands of spaces in the private, secondary rental market where rents are $100-$200 per month cheaper than with institutional landlords.

Frankly, I think that concept has merit but is a farce without a lot of changes.  No small landlord should consider getting into the business without changes to the legislation, primarily the Residential Tenancies Act, and the Human Rights Code that take some of the risk and down-side out of play.

Here is a link to an excellent submission provided to the committee by the Landlord's Self-Help Centre describing some of the factors that come into play, and some changes that would be helpful in order for small landlords to really get into the game.

Landlords' Self-Help Centre Submission on Bill 140

They have succinctly described the challenges for small landlords in being part of this new affordable housing scheme.

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