ONPHA’s analysis of the 2021 Federal Budget: Tracking housing sector “wins”
On April 19, the federal government released Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience, focused on employment, small businesses, climate action, and communities most impacted by COVID-19 toward a post-pandemic recovery.
ONPHA was glad to see significant housing investments, including an additional $1.5 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative, alongside a historic $30 billion toward national childcare. However, we were disappointed in the absence of specific commitments or designated investments in urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing, despite ongoing, long-term advocacy from ONPHA and sector partners.
We also would have liked to have seen the adoption of our recommendations for immediate stabilization funding for the community housing sector, and increased, dedicated funding for community housing renewal and growth. We will continue advocating for the critical role of housing to stimulate Canada’s socioeconomic recovery, including support for Indigenous-led solutions.
Check out ONPHA’s full analysis of the 2021 Federal Budget with the top five takeaways for community housing, including investments and opportunities for housing, extension of emergency supports, support for workers, support for seniors, people with disabilities, and mental health, and support for Indigenous communities and anti-racism initiatives.
Read on to see some of our housing sector “wins” in the budget and find our funding commitment tracker here.
1. Stabilize community housing
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 provider stabilization to ensure the sector’s short-term recovery and long-term sustainability.
The budget committed $400 million for a temporary Community Services Recovery Fund to support non-profits and charities to adapt and modernize (e.g., to remote work and online programming).
While welcome, this investment will not go far enough to stabilize Ontario’s community housing sector in the absence of a dedicated sector stabilization fund. 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 arrears, and prevent evictions and an increase in homelessness, ONPHA continues to call for tenant stabilization, including targeted rental relief and/or arrears management for low-income households, and expansion of the Canada Housing Benefit and Temporary Rental Assistance program.
Over the next seven years, the budget committed $315.4 million for the Canada Housing Benefit targeted for low-income women and children fleeing violence. The budget also extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until September 24 (with decreasing rates beginning in July), provided up to 12 additional weeks of the Canada Recovery Benefit at $500/week (with decreased rates to $300/week after the first four additional weeks), and four additional weeks of the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit at $500/week.
While critical, these investments will not stabilize renters facing mounting arrears and unaffordable rents. ONPHA will continue calling for support for low-income and other marginalized tenants, recognizing the significant risks of accumulating arrears to the community housing and homelessness 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 units (recognizing need has likely grown due to COVID-19). Our ongoing recommendations include increased funding and access to capital and surplus land (e.g., through National Housing Strategy (NHS) programs), and reinvestment of housing-related tax revenues into affordable housing initiatives.
Through the NHS, the budget committed $1.5 billion for a second round of the Rapid Housing Initiative. Over the next seven years, $600 million was dedicated to the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund and $118.2 million for the Federal Community Housing Initiative. The budget also advanced $1 billion through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, including $250 million for transitional housing and shelter spaces for women and children fleeing violence. Over the next two years, $300 million from the Rental Housing Construction Financing Initiative will support conversion of commercial property to housing.
Beyond NHS programs, $4.4 billion was committed for deep home retrofits, with some funding available for community housing providers. Through a new 1% tax on non-resident vacant properties starting in 2022, the budget estimated $700 million in revenue over four years, identified for re-investment in affordable housing.
While welcome, we’re concerned these investments will not go far enough to meet existing and growing housing needs. ONPHA will continue advocating for investment in growth and renewal, highlighting the value proposition of community housing for socioeconomic recovery.
4. Support urban, rural, and northern 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 on all levels of government to work with Indigenous partners to build 22,000 subsidized Indigenous-owned and operated units, support culturally-relevant programming, and increase Indigenous control in the sector.
While the budget made significant, much needed investments in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, few opportunities were made available for Indigenous communities in urban, rural, and northern settings, despite government commitments to develop a dedicated urban Indigenous housing strategy. Such an approach is critical to support progress along the path to reconciliation, and would help meet many of the government’s ongoing commitments (reiterated in the budget).
In the absence of specific commitments or dedicated investments in Indigenous-led urban, rural, and northern housing, we are very concerned inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will continue to grow. ONPHA will continue engagement with all levels of government on the need for sustainable resourcing for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing.
5. Invest in integrated supportive housing
Ontario has less than half of the supportive housing units required for mental health and addictions alone, not including persons with other disabilities, nor the growing needs due to COVID-19. An integrated approach to supportive housing is critical to combat chronic homelessness.
Over two years beginning in 2022-23, the budget committed $567 million for Reaching Home, plus $45 million to pilot a veterans homelessness program that would provide rent supplements and wrap-around services.
ONPHA continues to call for dedicated, sustainable investment from all levels of government toward an integrated approach to supportive housing.
ONPHA’s next steps
ONPHA will continue engaging with governments at all levels to advocate for:
- Immediate stabilization funding for community housing providers
- Arrears management and/or rental relief for unemployed and low-earning tenants
- Investment in community housing renewal and growth
- Support for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing
- An integrated approach to supportive housing
Stay tuned for opportunities to share input on budget announcements. If you have any questions about the budget or want to share feedback to inform ONPHA’s advocacy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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