Our Call to Action advocates for:
Affordable, appropriate and safe housing
- Increased investment in the construction of safe, decent, appropriate, purpose built, affordable and deeply affordable rental housing.
- Create a realistic plan to preserve tenancies and prevent evictions both now and at the end of the eviction ban, and expand rent bank programs to minimize unnecessary evictions.
- Address the growing issues of rural homelessness across Ontario.
- Ensure the Landlord Tenant Board is providing due process to all parties, and that digital hearings do not exclude any parties from access to justice.
Housing Task Force
The Housing Affordability Task force released its recommendations on February 8th.
The report can be found here
The report argues that a massive increase in the housing supply will, by the laws of supply and demand, lower costs. To do that, the report recommends three things:
- It changes the rules for development so developers face fewer restrictions on what they can build where, allowing greater density in all neighbourhoods.
- It changes land use planning process so that anyone who wants to build can get approvals faster, with less oversight.
- It lowers fees on developers for smaller developments, and reduces the cost of the application process.
It’s safe to say there are good things and bad things in this report like any other. Here is a quick overview.
What the task force will do that helps:
- Speed up development approvals, a costly process that has become bogged down.
- Reduce NIMBYism that stops affordable housing, rooming houses, and multi-unit dwellings in many areas.
- Create more homes, which are needed.
What the task force won’t do that’s needed
- Because their mandate forbade it, the task force has said nothing about:
- creating housing that is affordable to people living on low incomes
- public investment in creating affordable housing,
- any kind of social housing or coop housing,
- anything that helps the average renter until and unless the market builds so much that the effects “trickle down” to secondary rental markets – something that won’t happen for many years and can only happen if hundreds of thousands of new homes are built.
- The task force recommendations allow developers to build faster and cheaper, but don’t tie that newfound benefit to any contribution to a public benefit, like a requirement to make some of the new units affordable, or a tax on their windfall profits.
What the task force will do that may hurt:
- Adding density without any other controls tends to drive up the cost of land. Land prices are already too high, and increases won’t be offset by any big changes in the market for a long time.
- Accelerating development without a clear plan for labour force development and access to materials will inflate the cost of construction. Inflation in construction is already a serious problem and getting worse. This will add to that concern.
- It gives the public less power to play a role in development in their communities and gives developers far more power to avoid both public and government restrictions. That will get more homes built, but private companies will pay a much bigger role in deciding what get built where and how.
- It reduces revenues for cities to pay for things like parks and sewers which will mean higher taxes for everyone else.
Consultation on Service Agreements under the Housing Services Act
In response to the Government of Ontario’s consultation on the proposed new regulation under the Housing Services Act (HSA), several concerns have been raised.
Service Level Requirements
The Housing Services Act (HSA) regulations set out the minimum number of Rent Geared to Income (RGI) units or income-tested portable housing benefits that a service manager must provide in their region. Those standards were set at the time of download over 20 years ago. Cities can’t sell off housing or walk away from the table (the way other levels of government did) they have to meet those standards.
But those standards were set decades ago and have not grown with the population and don’t include other forms of assistance other than RGI. So we do need an update.
Unfortunately, the proposed solution is to remove the current standards and let municipalities develop new standards without a clear floor. Instead of keeping the current standards and adding new categories and more units to reflect policy changes and population growth, the proposed regulations, as written could let municipalities replace a brick and mortar RGI unit with far less robust support such as a $200/month rent supplement. This is, we assume, not the desired outcome. The update must not remove the baseline minimums of affordable homes supplied.
We need an update but not one that takes away the baseline protections of affordable homes.
The proposed regulation change should be amended to include the following:
- Maintain the current Service Level Standards for RGI units, as set out in the current regulation, and set distinct standards for income-tested portable benefits.
- Raise current Service Level Standards to reflect population growth and where rental affordability has decreased.
- The province should add standards that separately track and report on the other types of housing assistance and affordable housing that are being developed across the province so that the reporting better reflects the full range housing and supports being offered.
Currently, service managers are required to keep centralized social housing waitlists of those in need of RGI assistance. There are set eligibility and priority rules for selecting people from the waitlists but it also allows for flexibility for service managers to add local rules. There are rules governing income and assets. There are also rule about how long you can be away from the unit, or how much you can owe in arrears before losing eligibility. There is also flexibility for service managers to add local rules where they are needed.
We share the government’s goal of getting people off the waiting list. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of households on social housing waitlists in Ontario grew by 27% to 215,000. Many of these households will wait over 10 years for a placement in social housing. In addition the number of households in core housing need in Ontario in 2018 was 735,000. Even prior to the pandemic, that number was expected to grow to 815,500 by 2027. Lists are long.
However the way to address waitlists should be with increased access to affordable housing.
Instead, other methods have been explored. In some instances proposed new rules say if you refuse a unit that is offered, you come off the list. In others, proposed rules that say if you accept another form of housing support or benefit, even a less robust one, you come off the RGI waiting list. A small housing benefit is not a substitute for an RGI unit, particularly in hot housing markets where rents are well above what low-income households can afford. The reg doesn’t seem to have fully ensured that shift to portable benefits don’t affect income levels in a way that undermine other benefits, either, making moves off access to RGI units riskier still.
In addition, having different rules in different areas of the province risks policy setting that is patchwork and worse, may allow for policies designed to drive low-income families away from some municipalities.
It is understandable that the province wants to ensure that households with the greatest need get first access to RGI housing. But with 735,000 Ontarians in core housing need, and 215,000 on social housing wait lists, the real problem is not who gets housing first, the problem is there is not enough affordable housing for those in need.
- Households on the RGI waiting list should be able to access other forms of housing assistance or types of housing (such as affordable units that are not income tested) through the access system, but these alternate forms of assistance should be optional and there should be no loss of access to RGI that results.
- Households accessing benefits should be served equitably and reasonably, without prioritizing lower subsidy applicants, removing people from waiting lists unreasonably, or pressing people to leave the list in exchange for substandard supports or ill-suited units that are offered.
- The current rules under the HSA allow for adequate baseline of provincial eligibility rules, and enough flexibility for local rules. Upending that system poses risks of punitive, and unhelpful rules, and a patchwork that reduces equity of access across the province and restricts mobility for low income families.
Service Agreement and the “End of Mortgage Issue”
Right now, coops and other affordable housing providers have “service Agreements” with their service managers, those agreements include a formula for subsidies that calculate the cost of their mortgage, and other expenses, and their income from rents, and determine what the service manager needs to provide to make ends meet. Unfortunately, when the mortgages end, and its time to focus revenues on reinvesting in repairs, the old formula is an impediment that could actually cause affordable housing providers to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from service managers every year through “negative subsidies”. This will have a negative impact on coops and other providers leaving them unable to take care of their buildings. The proposed regulation says the province “may” intervene to set a floor on funding, so negative subsidies don’t happen.
600+ non-profits and co-ops will be impacted by end of mortgage over the next 10 years. 21,000 co-ops homes are at risk, and a total of 80,000 community homes (non-profits and co-ops) will be impacted by end of mortgage. The end of mortgage affects 30% of all social housing in Ontario and 7% of all rental housing in Ontario. In these communities 75% of households have a low-income and receive rental assistance based on their income. With such a significant portion of Ontario’s social housing affected, it’s important this housing is protected.
You can read more about that here CHF Canada’s #FixtheFormula4Coops campaign website.
Coops are encouraging folks to ask that the new regs include:
- Protections for this affordable housing by including a modernized baseline funding formula that ensures service managers cover the cost of rental assistance and property taxes,
- A simplified administrative model that allows co-ops and non-profits to reinvest in their buildings and fix long standing capital repair needs, and
- A fair dispute resolution process.
Click here if your community wants to be informed or engaged on housing issues.