Province pledges $1 billion for social housing, plans to restrict access to wait-lists

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TheStar.com – Politics/Provincial
April 17, 2019.   By

Ontario has pledged to invest $1 billion to help repair social housing and reduce homelessness and plans to propose new rules restricting access to housing wait-lists, including a cap on how much potential tenants can be worth financially, as part of a community housing renewal strategy released Wednesday.

“Our government believes Ontario families shouldn’t have to live in buildings with crumbling walls, leaking roofs and broken elevators,” said Steve Clark, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a news release. “We will work with municipalities and non-profits to address issues like safety, overcrowding and long wait lists.”

High on the list of stated priorities is reducing the wait-list for subsidized housing by having prospective tenants “prioritize their first choice” and “accept the first one they first unit they are offered.” Housing providers will also be empowered to “turn away tenants” who have been evicted for criminal activity.

“We are proposing to amend regulations to give community housing providers the authority to refuse to re-house a tenant based on a previous eviction for a serious criminal offence. This change is in response to concerns raised by service managers and aims to reduce crime and gang-related violence in community housing so that all residents feel safer in their home,” the report states. The ministry is accepting feedback on the community safety piece — part of proposed amendments to the Housing Services Act. — until July 1.

The announcement, made in Newmarket, also pledges to tackle red tape and ensure faster repairs on existing housing stock. Existing rent-geared-to-income rules will also be overhauled using “ a simple calculation based on income tax information.”

“We will explore how to transform the current waiting list system for rent-geared-to-income assistance into a comprehensive community housing access system that better matches applicants with housing that meets their needs,” the report states.

The province is also proposing new rules that would require housing providers “to set an appropriate local asset limit for people to be eligible for rent-geared-to-income assistance,” the report states, citing figures produced through the Auditor General of Ontario that stated that some people on the wait-list held assets worth more than $500,000.

In that 2017 report, the auditor general found that 709 people on the social housing wait-list for one service manager — the report does not specify which one — held assets worth between $500,000 and $999,000. An additional 1,395 people held assets between $100,000 and $499,000, according to the report.

In Toronto, the number of active applications for households looking for social housing — a mix of co-operative housing, Toronto Community Housing properties and private not-for-profit housing — hit 100,515 by the end of 2018, according to the City of Toronto website.

Of that reported total, 35 per cent were identified as households belonging to or with seniors.

TCH buildings are home to 110,000 people.

Toronto’s aging public housing stock received a recent boost, through a $1.3-billion federal pledge that is to be used for energy conservation and overall repairs. The money is a mix of grants and loans, which Sheila Penny, vice-president, facilities management with TCH told the Star would be repaid through a mix of energy savings and refinancing existing mortgages. The money is already flowing.

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/04/17/province-pledges-1-billion-for-social-housing-plans-overhaul-to-tackle-wait-lists.html

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