Strengthening social housing communities by supporting vulnerable tenants
The number of vulnerable residents living in social housing communities in Ontario has risen over time. Due to demographic changes, economic conditions, and policy decisions by all levels of government, over 70,000 aging seniors and over 20,000 residents with a serious mental illness currently live in social housing. While some of these residents are able to live independently without supports or assistance, many others are struggling.
The challenges that these residents face and the impact that they have on their community is the focus of ONPHA’s recently-released report, Strengthening social housing communities: Helping vulnerable residents maintain successful tenancies. The report marks the culmination of an in-depth research project wherein ONPHA’s Strategy and Advocacy department worked with consultant Joy Connelly to survey ONPHA members, conduct key informant interviews, and convene focus groups in four communities.
Because the majority of social housing providers do not receive any funding for support services, vulnerable residents are often unable to get the help they need to have successful tenancies. The result is negative outcomes for both the residents and the neighbourhoods where they live. Housing providers reported that these unsupported tenancies can result in reduced quality of life for all tenants, as well as increases in staff time and higher levels of hoarding, unit damage, and even eviction.
What is needed is a framework for supporting vulnerable tenants living in social housing. This report outlines a series of steps and actions that all levels of government should commit to in order for progress to be made. Chief among them is the development of a joint strategy between the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to make supports in housing part of the core provincial budget. At the same time, increased collaboration between service managers and local health integration networks can improve access to services and lead to effective partnerships.
The report also highlights a number of key programs and initiatives that have helped vulnerable tenants to succeed. Many of these programs are pilots or rely on limited funding or grants, which is why dedicated provincial funding is so important. With the right support and collaboration, social housing providers will be able to fully assist vulnerable tenants while ensuring that their communities remain stable and secure for all residents.