National Housing Week 2020: Reflections from ONPHA CEO Marlene Coffey
It’s good to have an annual marker on your calendar. Much like a reminder to change the batteries in your smoke detector, without a standing cue, some of the most important measures in life can get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.
Each year, we pause on National Housing Day to be reminded of just how important our collective work is. In the week surrounding November 22, we have the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go as a sector.
We all know that we have been experiencing a housing crisis for some time, now exasperated by the pandemic and deepened by the accompanying economic downturn. In the era of COVID-19, our sector has been tested like never before and in this time, we excelled by being able to adapt, change, and survive as organizations and as a sector. In fact, we did more than just survive, we got even better at serving our communities.
At ONPHA, we updated our plan to reflect the vision for every Ontarian to have a home where they can fully participate in their community; and to meet this goal, we need to renew 260,000 community-owned rental units, build 69,000 new units, provide income supports to 311,000 additional households in Ontario, and create at least 30,000 supportive housing units for individuals with mental health and addictions issues. ONPHA’s new Strategic Plan, with its inside-out approach, puts people at the centre of community housing and decision-making to ensure the sector’s long-term sustainability.
So, why does the vision matter? Well, it gives us a clear line-of-sight for what we want to accomplish and ONPHA has consistently advocated for government leaders to take more responsibility on three-fronts:
- Establish a stabilization fund to help close the gap between increased costs and reduced revenues.
- Prioritize economic recovery measures to elevate community housing as essential infrastructure.
- Secure funding to renew aging stock and build new inventory to meet the demand for housing affordability.
Why does the plan matter? The plan allows ONPHA to focus our efforts and we acted in four-strategic ways:
- We established ONPHA’s Centre for Housing Excellence as the vehicle through which ONPHA will lead sector transformation using an integrated systems approach to community housing. The Centre will help us navigate change on important issues such as end of operating agreements and mortgages, increasing costs for aging infrastructure, new construction or acquisition, and increasingly complex tenant issues. We are bringing together diverse sectors to work together and strengthen our collective voice to find solutions and influence change. Our goal is to expand the community housing footprint by 2% within the overall housing market in Ontario to meet the National Housing Strategy target.
- We planned to work as part of a people-centred integrated system. We bridged our old strategy to one that is current and more relevant, putting people at the centre of decision-making. We launched ONPHA’s Urban and Rural Indigenous Housing Plan for Ontario – the first of its kind in Canada. We also celebrated leadership and excellence through our Awards and scholarship programs.
- We shared knowledge to build a stronger and more sustainable housing system. We launched a new platform for knowledge sharing called ONPHA Exchange – a series of regular sector calls with members, stakeholders, partner associations, and provincial and federal governments. We also worked to improve your purchasing power with our ONPHA Select program.
- We strengthened sector knowledge. We created a hub for all things COVID-19, with 46 resources and 35 FAQ’s and counting, including a resource to help providers develop pandemic plans and a funding tracker for housing providers. We have delivered and continue to offer workshops and webinars that bring expert speakers and their advice and experience directly to you. We have built 200+ resources and developed an advocacy library to address issues of the day, like the rent freeze and insurance liability coverage, and we’ve worked to improve Ontario’s housing system through our input on Ontario’s Community Housing Renewal Strategy and Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, 2020.
In summary, I can speak on behalf of ONPHA to say that, we are proud to be leading though change and towards a bright future where every Ontarian has a home where they can fully participate in their community. We have established many wins within ONPHA’s four strategic pillars and as part of our annual work to advocate for measures that support sector stabilization, recovery and growth.
If you want to know more, read ONPHA’s 2019-2020 Annual Report to see how we responded to serve members and the sector during this critical time. If you want to get involved, join us for one of our many professional development opportunities such as our online courses, workshops, and informational webinars. We are pleased to be hosting with ONPHA’s Urban and Rural Indigenous Housing Advisory Committee a series of Indigenous Housing Gatherings, the first of which launches during National Housing Day week, on Wednesday, November 25.
And finally, in this annual reflection, my biggest impression and dedication is to you, as our leaders in the community housing sector. You do difficult work with dedication and expertise. I am continually impressed with what you do day-to-day and what we do, in combination, to support Ontario’s most vulnerable populations.
Take a moment to be proud; reflect on yourself, your organization and as a sector that is vitally important for every Ontarian to have a home.
So, here’s to another great year ahead and to opening more doors through housing.
Thank you and congratulations!
Marlene Coffey, CEO, ONPHA