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Posted by on Mar 2021 in Advocacy, All Stories, News Updates, Sector leadership, Slider, Uncategorized | 0 comments

ONPHA’s analysis of the 2021 Ontario Budget: Tracking housing sector “wins”

Queen's Park Provincial Legislature

Ontario released its 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy on March 24. The budget builds on existing investments in the Province’s COVID-19 response, with a focus on health and economic recovery toward a post-pandemic future. 

ONPHA is glad to see the budget provided some much-needed investments in Ontario’s ongoing pandemic response, including targeted supports for communities most impacted by COVID-19, families, and economic recovery efforts for both workers and organizations. 

We would have liked to have seen the adoption of ONPHA’s recommendations to make housing a central focus of the 2021 Budget. We’ll continue our advocacy work to highlight the critical role that housing can play to stimulate socioeconomic recovery for Ontario.

Find ONPHA’s full analysis of the 2021 Ontario Budget with the top five takeaways for community housing, including investments in housing and social services, supports for communities most impacted by COVID-19, supports for workers and businesses, supports for families, and supports for healthcare and long-term care.  

Read on to track some of our housing sector “wins” in the budget and find our full tracker here

1. Stabilize housing providers 

As part our ongoing advocacy, ONPHA continues to highlight the extraordinary COVID-19-related costs facing community housing providers, including revenue loss from rental arrears, unintended impacts from the rent increase freeze, increased costs from unit vacancies, personal protective equipment, higher utility use, increased staffing, cleaning and security, backlogs of maintenance and repair work, increased insurance premiums, and office retrofits. In our pre-budget submission, we called for immediate investment for provider stabilization, which could include expansion of the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) and/or the Ontario Small Business Support Grant (OSBSG), plus preferential utility rates for community housing. 

Leading up to the budget, Ontario announced $255 million through the SSRF, though the funding is targeted for emergency shelter responses. The budget committed $1.7 billion for a second round of the OSBSG (through an automatic entitlement for previous recipients), however many non-profits were not eligible for the first round and no additional eligibility criteria were included. No preferential community housing utility rates were announced. 

ONPHA will continue to engage all levels of government on opportunities to stabilize providers. 

2. Stabilize tenants 

Low-income and other marginalized households already facing affordability challenges have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic-related job and income loss, leading to unprecedented and unmanageable levels of rental arrears. To mitigate cascading impacts of rental arrears, and prevent evictions and an increase in homelessness, ONPHA continues to call for tenant support, including through targeted rental relief and/or arrears management for low-income households, and/or expansion of the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB). 

The budget stated that Ontario exceeded its target of assisting 5,000 households in the COHB’s first year, though did not identify the number of households that have received assistance. The budget also reiterated Ontario’s joint investment with the federal government of nearly $1 billion through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, however no support was announced for residential rent and/or arrears assistance. 

ONPHA will continue to highlight the importance of supporting low-income and other marginalized tenants, recognizing the significant risks of accumulating rental arrears to the community housing and homelessness support systems. 

3. Renew and grow community housing 

Following the 2018 release of ONPHA and the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada’s Affordable Housing Plan for Ontario, we continue to call for investment in the required renewal of 260,000 community housing units and construction of 99,000 affordable and supportive housing units. ONPHA continues to highlight the need for increased funding and access to capital and surplus land, including reinvesting housing-related tax revenues into affordable housing initiatives. 

The budget provided housing-related investments for some communities most impacted by COVID-19 over the next three years: $18.5 million for the Transitional Housing Support Program to support victims of domestic violence and survivors of human trafficking to find and maintain affordable housing, and $13 million to assist people with developmental disabilities in accessing community housing and independent living supports. However, the budget did not address the deep need for investment across the community housing sector. 

The budget also projected a $409 million increase in Land Transfer Tax revenue from 2020-21 to 2021-22 due to stronger housing resales, though it was not identified for re-investment in affordable housing. Directing these revenues toward affordable housing would present an enormous opportunity to help ensure that affordability challenges do not worsen as the housing market continues to heat up, providing an economic catalyst for housing affordability. 

ONPHA will continue advocacy focused on the need for investment in growth and renewal, highlighting the value proposition of community housing for socioeconomic recovery. 

4. Support urban and rural Indigenous housing 

With work underway to develop a community-led implementation strategy for ONPHA’s Urban and Rural Indigenous Housing Plan for Ontario, we continue to call for all levels of government to work in true partnership with Indigenous peoples to build 22,000 subsidized Indigenous-owned and operated units, support culturally-relevant programming, and increase Indigenous control in the sector. 

Recognizing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities, the budget committed $4 million for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations (including to combat housing shortages), $6 million in the Indigenous Community Capital Grants Program, and $18.2 million over three years to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

ONPHA will follow up to seek clarity on housing-related opportunities through this funding and continue engagement with all levels of government on the need for sustainable resourcing for urban and rural Indigenous housing. 

ONPHA’s next steps 

As we look toward the release of the 2021 Federal Budget on April 19, ONPHA will continue to advocate for: 

  • Immediate stabilization funding for community housing providers 
  • Arrears management and/or rental relief for unemployed and low-earning tenants 
  • Protection of existing community housing 
  • Investment in community housing growth, including support for urban and rural Indigenous housing and an integrated approach to supportive housing 

If you have any questions about the Ontario 2021 Budget or want to share feedback to inform ONPHA’s advocacy, please reach out to us at policy@onpha.org

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