Hot! Can’t give money away [Rent Supplements]

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Sat Sep 18 2010

There are 142,000 low-income families in Ontario waiting on a list for an apartment they can afford. So one would expect that the government would have no trouble finding people to benefit from $100 a month to help pay the rent.

But the province managed to design a rent supplement program that was so cumbersome and restrictive that, three years after its launch, it still hasn’t managed to spend all the $185 million that was earmarked for it. “There just weren’t the applicants,” claims the housing ministry.

The problem was never a shortage of people too poor to pay the rent. Ontario, unfortunately, has far too many who fall into that category. The problem was a program so poorly designed and communicated it couldn’t give money away.

The benefit was restricted to working families, with net incomes of $20,000 or less, who had children under 18. Pensioners, families on social assistance, singles and childless couples could not apply.

Now, with $50 million of the program’s funds still sitting in the bank, the government has decided to use the money to create a brand new housing program. This time, at least, they are going to do what housing advocates have long been urging: give municipalities the flexibility to allocate the rent supplements according to local needs.

MPP Donna Cansfield, parliamentary secretary to the housing minister, calls this “a good-news story.” But how many people have been evicted from apartments they couldn’t afford or skimped on food to pay the rent in the last three years while this money sat in the bank?

With a revolving door of housing ministers and programs that don’t work, the provincial Liberals have yet to demonstrate that affordable housing is a priority for them.

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