Community housing for the future: Taking collective action toward resiliency
Community housing in Ontario is at a critical moment in history, as the Province ramps up consultation activities to support regulation development under the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, 2020. These regulations will inform the parameters of the future legislative framework for community housing, and as such, require bold solutions to ensure the sector remains financially viable, desirable, and sustainable so that it can continue supporting Ontarians for the long-term.
Read on to learn about ONPHA’s Solutions Lab on Community housing for the future: Taking collective action toward resiliency, a collaborative, future-oriented dialogue on Ontario’s community housing system.
Collectively envisioning a new future
The Solutions Lab brings together key stakeholders from across the community housing sector, including housing providers, service managers, and sector associations, to develop and test creative business models and policy recommendations to ensure the sustainability, growth and resilience of community housing in Ontario, while addressing the critical end of mortgages issue.
To ensure this important work could get underway, ONPHA funded Phases 1 and 2 of the Solutions Lab. Along with ONPHA’s continued commitment to the initiative, we are also very grateful for the generous support contributed from the Community Housing Transformation Centre and the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada that has allowed us to move forward with Phases 3 to 5.
ONPHA launched the Solutions Lab in November 2020, working with SHS Consulting. Phase 1 of the Solutions Lab involved setting the context for the Lab’s work and confirming the project’s purpose and goals, which was partially informed by surveying Ontario housing providers to better understand the current situations faced by the diverse range of non-profit housing providers across Ontario and to identify the bigger system-level challenges and dynamics in the province’s community housing sector.
Phase 2, the Discovery Phase, involved two workshops and key informant interviews with housing providers, service managers, and sector associations, focused on producing a shared understanding of the current state of the community housing sector and strategic visions for the future.
Why a Solutions Lab?
There is an imminent issue with the Housing Services Act, 2011 (HSA) funding formula that could put the viability of more than 55% of ONPHA’s non-profit housing provider members at risk. Many providers will not be sustainable into the future without action. Despite the severity and urgency of this issue, it presents a timely opportunity to reframe a negative scenario by innovating, questioning assumptions, and envisioning a new future for community housing in Ontario. Many of these opportunities will be available to the community housing sector through new legislation that passed on July 21, 2020, the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, 2020 (the Act). Among other things, the Act amends the HSA and provides opportunities for community housing providers reaching the end of their mortgage or operating agreement to either:
- exit the HSA and thus remove them from all related obligations; or
- enter into a new service agreement and new obligations with their service manager.
You can find further information on the Act and potential impacts and opportunities for the community housing sector through Robins Appleby LLP’s legal analysis.
The details related to these exit and service agreements (and other amendments) are still unknown and will be determined through regulation. The Province has committed to developing the regulations in consultation with the broader community housing sector, including service managers and housing providers.
These consultation processes present a timely opportunity for all community sector stakeholders to work together to support the development of these regulations and create a sustainable community housing system, including generating flexible, sector-driven solutions that ensure the sector’s resilience and growth.
Support from the sector
ONPHA is grateful for the support we’ve received for this initiative. Of the need for sector collaboration on the issues addressed by the Solutions Lab, ONPHA CEO Marlene Coffey says “at ONPHA, we believe that the best solution is one developed through a sector wide approach and with all stakeholders at the table”. With that in mind, we’re pleased to share the feedback we’ve gotten from our sector partners on our Solutions Lab initiative.
The Community Housing Transformation Centre is helping to support Solutions Lab Phases 3-5. Of the initiative, they say:
The Centre is pleased to support ONPHA in their efforts to harness the knowledge of housing providers through the Collective Action project. With this approach they will be poised to develop an array of potential solutions for over 700 members of the association, using a consultation process that recognizes the diversity of non-profit housing in Ontario. We look forward to findings that can be widely shared throughout Ontario for a truly sectoral-wide impact.
Simone Swail, Manager, Government Relations, at fellow Solutions Lab supporter organization, the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada tells us:
Affordable housing in Ontario is at turning point, by bringing all the partners together and working collaboratively through the Solutions Lab we hope to build a better path forward for housing providers and in need in our communities.
Michael Jacek, Senior Advisor, Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) says of Solutions Lab:
We all share a common interest in sustaining and growing the community housing system for people in need of affordable permanent housing. The Solutions Lab is facilitating important dialogue with housing providers and municipal service system managers on how to collaboratively achieve this goal together.
Consultations on proposed regulatory amendments under the Act related to required local eligibility rules for income and asset limits for RGI assistance are already underway (see ONPHA’s written submission), and consultations on the other key areas for regulatory development, including exit and service agreements, are expected to begin shortly. Stay tuned to ONPHA’s communications channels for engagement opportunities as part of the forthcoming consultations.
ONPHA is now launching Phase 3 of the Solutions Lab, the Development Phase, which will begin the solution development process, working on further building out the ideas from the first two phases. The next step will be to create a roadmap of potential solutions for the future of community housing.
Learn more about the Solutions Lab on our website.
Have questions about the Solutions Lab, end of mortgages or operating agreements, or potential impacts and opportunities for community housing? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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