ONPHA’s advocacy round-up
Following our advocacy work responding to changes to the sector via Bill 184, ONPHA has been busy throughout the summer advocating for sector sustainability and the need for adequate supports for providers, their staff, and tenants in response to COVID-19. In addition to the submissions outlined below, we continue to engage regularly with staff from the provincial Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) and Health (MOH), the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), sector partners (including AMO, OMSSA, CHF, HSC, ONN and FRPO) and other provincial and national associations (including BCNPHA, CHRA and CANPHA).
ONPHA’s advocacy work continues to highlight the disproportionate impacts of both COVID-19 and housing affordability on marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities, 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals, low/limited income earners, those experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, and seniors, underscoring the need for long-term, sustainable housing that meets community needs. We continue to call on all levels of government to implement policy-based solutions built on community experience and expertise to ensure the health of our communities and residents are supported for the long-term.
As the community housing sector begins to redirect focus from emergency response toward long-term planning and recovery, ONPHA has undertaken significant advocacy work to position the sector as a critical component of provincial and federal COVID-19 economic recovery planning. We have focused on the need for immediate sector stabilization funding, in addition to investment to fund capital repairs for current community housing stock, sustainable development projects, and to provide much-needed tenant supports.
At the provincial level, ONPHA appeared twice before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to highlight the value proposition of community housing and to position investment in the sector as central to economic recovery planning. We also shared two submissions advocating for increased funding and support related to municipalities, construction and building and small and medium enterprises.
This work builds on our previous joint submission with the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF) and the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, calling for investment along the housing continuum to kick-start economic recovery.
At the federal level, ONPHA recently made a submission to the 2021 pre-budget consultations, reinforcing similar themes, with additional focus on access to National Housing Strategy funding for community housing providers, as well as the need to remedy systemic barriers to housing by immediately and effectively implementing the right to housing.
ONPHA will continue to work with all levels of government and sector partners to ensure the sustainability of the sector is central to economic recovery planning.
Insurance coverage issues
Across the non-profit sector, insurers are beginning to introduce contagious disease exclusions (including for COVID-19), significantly raising coverage costs and, in some cases, threatening to withdraw coverage altogether. This will severely threaten the sustainability of the broad non-profit sector and put boards of directors at significant risk.
Following the work of the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), ONPHA recently shared an advocacy letter with the Attorney General on insurance coverage issues for non-profits, calling for urgent “Good Samaritan” liability protection for the sector. Good Samaritan protection would ensure non-profits – and their directors, officers, employees, and volunteers – are not liable for COVID-related damages if they operate in accordance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance.
ONPHA continues to work closely with ONN as they pursue their advocacy efforts with the province on this issue.
For providers covered by Housing Services Corporation’s (HSC) insurance program, they successfully negotiated liability and directors’ and officers’ coverage for communicable diseases. This means that program members are protected from most COVID-19 claims for the 2021 policy term (however, consistent with market trends, coverage will not apply to COVID-19-related property claims e.g., direct physical loss or damage).
Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB)
The closure of all non-emergency functions of the LTB at the start of the pandemic posed a number of challenges for the community housing sector, including revenue loss from non-payment of rent (mostly for ongoing rental arrears pre-COVID-19), and the potential health and safety risks to tenants. While non-emergency functions have now resumed, there are significant backlogs to access services.
ONPHA recently participated in LTB stakeholder engagement regarding proposed changes to rules, guidelines and forms to support fairness and efficiency in the dispute resolution process and in response to new legislation. Through a recent virtual engagement session and written submission, we highlighted the need to address adjudicator shortages and resource capacity, provide fair and efficient dispute resolution services and ongoing stakeholder engagement, and made specific recommendations for the new Payment Agreement Form and proposed Rules of Procedure to ensure equitable outcomes.
ONPHA is now preparing an advocacy response to the newly proposed provincial rent increase freeze, focusing on the need for broad policy responses and supports that maintain tenancies and preserve affordability. We will share the letter with members in the coming weeks.
We are also developing advocacy in preparation for the delayed provincial budget (to be delivered on November 15, 2020), which will reinforce many of our previous positions on the need for ongoing stabilization and support for the community housing sector.
We expect to learn more about sector engagement opportunities related to regulation development for Bill 184 shortly, and will share information with members as it becomes available.
If you have questions or feedback to inform ONPHA’s advocacy, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay updated on recent developments on our website and through our weekly e-Alert newsletter.