2019 Ontario Budget: Top Five Impacts for Community Housing
On April 11, 2019, Ontario released Protecting What Matters Most
the inaugural budget of the new Conservative government. Overall, ONPHA is optimistic about commitments made to community housing and housing affordability through the National Housing Strategy, the introduction of a new Community Housing Renewal Strategy, and the forthcoming Housing Supply Action Plan.
The Budget has not provided many specific or new details around these housing related initiatives, but we are advised that these will be coming. We look forward to learning more and to working with our housing provider members, government, and sector partners to ensure that the design and implementation of these initiatives meet the needs of Ontario’s community housing sector.
Read on for the top five things community housing providers need to know about Budget 2019.
1) The National Housing Strategy
First and foremost, ONPHA is pleased to see formal confirmation of the new provincial government’s intent to move ahead with cost-sharing the critical housing initiatives included in the Ontario-Canada bilateral agreement under the National Housing Strategy. Through this agreement, approximately $4 billion in federal, provincial and municipal contributions will be leveraged over the next nine years through three major initiatives:
- The Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative which will essentially maintain federal baseline funding and must be used solely to protect, regenerate and expand social/community housing
- The Ontario Priorities Housing Initiatives which is meant to support regional needs and priorities
- The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit which will provide portable affordability support directly to families and individuals in housing need
The National Housing Strategy and bilateral agreement set out high level parameters for each of these initiatives and the province will be required to develop and design the programs in accordance with these.
According to the bilateral agreement, funding for the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative and the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative was initially scheduled to start flowing as of April 1, 2019, so we are expecting more details around these programs soon.
The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit is scheduled to start as of April 2020. The Budget confirms that this program will be created through further negotiation and co-design between the province and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
ONPHA has been working with national partners through the Canadian Alliance of Non-Profit Housing Associations (CANPHA) on shared principles to guide the design of benefit programs under the National Housing Strategy and will be bringing these to provincial and federal policy-makers.
2) Community Housing Renewal Strategy
The 2019 Budget also announced a new Community Housing Renewal Strategy to stabilize and grow Ontario’s community housing sector. As part of the new Strategy, the provincial government aims to:
- Protect and expand affordable housing by creating incentives for community housing providers to continue in their work and improve sustainability
- Simplify rent-geared-to-income (RGI) calculations to reduce administrative burdens and improve processes
- Streamline and update waitlist and eligibility rules
- Address community safety concerns for vulnerable tenants
We know these are challenges faced by each and every one of our members across the province. We are pleased to see a commitment from government in these areas, and we look forward to working collaboratively to find solutions that will sustain, expand and improve Ontario’s community housing system.
3) Housing Supply Action Plan
The other big-ticket item for housing in the 2019 Budget is the government’s previously announced commitment to create a Housing Supply Action Plan. While the Budget does not provide any new information, it reiterates the government’s intention to deliver this and to introduce related legislation by spring 2019.
Over the past several months, ONPHA has been at the table for several consultations around this initiative to share our recommendations
for increasing affordable housing supply in Ontario. Our overarching recommendation has been that – to truly solve Ontario’s housing shortage and affordability crisis – government must work with both private and non-profit sectors to increase supply and options across the entire spectrum.
As part of these consultations, and as part of our pre-budget advocacy
, we have also called on the provincial government to prioritize the community housing sector in affordable housing development initiatives and to reinvest housing related revenues back into housing affordability initiatives. While these items were not addressed specifically in the Budget, we are continuing to advocate on these issues and we hope to see them built into the forthcoming Housing Supply Action Plan, as well as the National Housing Strategy initiatives and new Community Housing Renewal Strategy.
4) Supportive Housing and Community Supports
In the months leading up to the Budget, we were pleased to see a provincial commitment of $3.8 billion announced for mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years. While the Budget revealed that $174 million will be allocated in 2019-2020 for initiatives including supportive housing, we had hoped to learn more about the overall allocation of these funds and targets for new supportive housing units. As part of our Affordable Housing Plan for Ontario
, ONPHA has been calling on the provincial government to adopt the recommendation from Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Council to create an additional 30,000 supportive housing units over the next decade, and we will continue to work towards this target.
Within the Budget we were pleased to see an additional $247 million allocated for home and community care services, including personal supports, nursing, meals, transportation and assisted living services in supportive housing. This investment will undoubtedly help many people, including community housing tenants, receive the supports they need to continue living with dignity in the communities they have helped create.
The 2019 Budget also commits to a comprehensive review of the more than 20 supportive housing programs in Ontario with the aim to find ways to streamline and improve coordination between the programs. This review is much-needed and we look forward to supporting it. We will also be closely following how Ontario’s supportive housing will fit into the broader provincial healthcare reform that is being proposed.
5) Indigenous Housing
We were pleased to see that Indigenous peoples will be prioritized within mental health and addictions initiatives, including supportive housing. However, this is a far cry from our call to action to create and action an Ontario Indigenous Housing Strategy that addresses the critical housing needs of Ontario’s Indigenous communities.
At our 2018 Annual General Meeting, the ONPHA membership unanimously passed a resolution to champion Indigenous housing strategies at both national and provincial levels. We are currently working with our Urban Aboriginal Housing Advisory Committee to develop an Urban/Rural Indigenous Housing Plan for Ontario that will clearly define the need and also demonstrate the value Indigenous housing providers bring to their communities. We look forward to sharing more information soon and providing government with strong policy and financial recommendations based on this work.
The 2019 Ontario Budget gives our sector many reasons to be positive and optimistic. Through the announced initiatives and commitments, it is clear that this government recognizes the importance of community housing and is committed to sustaining it.
At the same time, there are some critical areas, including supportive and Indigenous housing, that need much stronger commitment and clarification. It is also disappointing to see an overall decrease in the annual levels of provincial investment in municipal affairs and housing. Affordable housing must continue to be a shared priority by all levels of government, particularly given the limits of the municipal tax base.
We have a strong sector that manages close to $30 billion in assets. With the right conditions and strategic investment, community housing is positioned to leverage these assets to achieve strong social, economic and health outcomes for all. We look forward to continuing to partner with government to achieve a bright future for Ontario.
If you have questions or would like more detail about the National Housing Strategy or housing initiatives included in the 2019 Ontario Budget, please reach out to ONPHA at 1-800-297-6660