Expanding the definition of “infrastructure” to include social housing
In the summer of 2014, the newly-elected Liberal Government indicated that infrastructure was a top provincial priority by introducing Bill 6, Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act. The Bill mandates that the Province develop a long-term infrastructure plan every three years. It also sets out what criteria should guide future infrastructure investment.
Upon reading the first version, ONPHA recognized that the definition of infrastructure in the Bill did not include social housing. This oversight was significant, as social housing – much like the schools, hospitals, and roads that were listed in the Bill – plays a key role in providing a public service to Ontarians, as well as helping to create jobs and boost economic growth.
Last fall, ONPHA submitted a letter and briefing note to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure requesting that social housing be added to the definition of infrastructure in Bill 6. This addition would give municipalities the option to direct future infrastructure funding to the social housing buildings in their communities, helping to ensure that units are safe and secure for social housing tenants.
In addition to meeting with representatives from the Ministry, Executive Director Sharad Kerur presented ONPHA’s recommendations on Bill 6 to the Standing Committee on General Government in May of this year. Kerur stressed that municipalities are grappling with the need to repair crumbling social housing assets, as the outstanding capital repair bill in Ontario has climbed up to $2.6 billion. Housing providers have admitted that they may have to start closing units that are no longer safe for people to live in. Social housing is vital to the future growth of Ontario, and adding social housing to the infrastructure definition in Bill 6 would allow the Province to help the social housing sector at no additional cost.
Based on ONPHA’s submissions, the Province agreed to our recommendations regarding Bill 6. The revised Bill, which includes social housing in the definition of infrastructure, received Royal Assent on June 4, 2015 and is now law.