Consolidating housing programs should improve services, an AMO Backgrounder for the Ontario Provincial Election 2011.
AMO is watching carefully as the province moves forward on its commitment to consolidate housing and homelessness programs, a key recommendation from the provincial-municipal service delivery review. These programs include shelters, hostels, and transitional supports for those at risk.

This consolidation was intended to provide more streamlined funding that would allow municipalities to make decisions on how best to deliver services locally. Currently there are more than 20 housing and homelessness programs that cut across several ministries.

However, as the province takes its initial steps towards consolidation, AMO wants to ensure that the implementation does not result in greater costs for municipal taxpayers, who are already the largest funder of the affordable housing system in Ontario. 

For example, work on consolidating the first five programs into one funding stream is underway. These programs include homelessness prevention, emergency hostel services, housing for those with special needs, emergency hydro/gas funding and rental support for those at risk of eviction.

AMO is concerned that the consolidation may result in the downloading of some emergency hostel funding to municipalities, who are currently reimbursed for 80% of the cost of each bed, without any cap. Capping this funding could force municipalities to close hostel beds or raise property taxes.

Unlike the rest of Canada, social housing is a municipal responsibility in Ontario and our municipalities contribute more than $1.2 billion annually to social housing. As social housing stock ages, municipalities face increased costs to maintain this housing. Property taxpayers cannot be expected to further fund housing programs.
Ontario Housing Facts:

  • More than 260,000 households in Ontario spend more than 50% of their income on rent. 
  • There are over 152,000 households on municipal waiting lists for assisted housing, a 7% increase from 2010. 
  • Nearly 40% of households on the waiting list are families.
Source: Statistics Canada and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.

The goal of a consolidated, responsive program is to put current funding to better use with better outcomes for users. It is essential that it not result in less funding or services. This transformation will require time, as well as a coordinated effort on behalf of various provincial ministries, including the Ministry of Health, which oversees the mental health component.

But good public policy alone will not address the profound need for affordable housing in Ontario. Given the uncertain economy and the increasing needs of many residents, more funding is required to meet the growing demand for housing programs in Ontario.