Ontario housing strategy: Won’t reduce long wait lists
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
Published On Tue Nov 30 2010
Claiming it needed “the time to get it right,” the Liberal government at Queen’s Park long delayed releasing a long-term affordable housing strategy. That’s what makes what was released Monday – three years after it was first promised in the 2007 election campaign – all the more disappointing.
The housing strategy is little more than a series of regulatory changes that reduce red tape, simplify convoluted rules and provide municipalities more flexibility to cater to local needs. These measures, which Housing Minister Rick Bartolucci is trying to pass off as a full-fledged strategy, could have been carried out as part of various government initiatives to streamline regulations and modernize rules.
One change (calculating income annually, instead of monthly) will be helpful to low-income households lucky enough to already live in subsidized housing and to raise their income levels through paid work. Under the new rules, their rent would not go up for a year.
The strategy is called “Building Foundations: Building Futures,” but it does not propose actually building any new housing. Nor does it fund any new rent subsidies to help people afford existing apartments. That means it does next to nothing for the 142,000 low-income families in Ontario on waiting lists of up to 20 years for subsidized housing.
With demand obviously outstripping supply, Ontarians deserve better than a long-term strategy that has no targets for building more social housing and no new funding to support.
To be sure, the existing legislation governing social housing is outdated, and there are regulations that create barriers for low-income tenants. It makes sense to change these laws, as the government is doing with a new bill. But legislative changes alone will not transform lives, open doors and lower rents for families in need.
“It is essential that Ontario families have a safe, affordable place to call home,” says Laurel Broten, the minister responsible for Ontario’s overall poverty reduction strategy.
We agree. But this plan doesn’t make it happen for the 142,000 households who are desperately waiting for a home they can afford without skipping trips to the grocery store.
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