Consolidating Housing Programs: A Shift to a New Delivery Mechanism. August 2012 Backgrounder.
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. This consolidation was intended to provide more streamlined funding to allow municipalities to make decisions on how best to deliver services locally. Currently, there are more than 20 housing and homelessness programs in operation that cut across several ministries.

Work on consolidating the first five programs into one funding stream is already 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. 

As the province moves towards consolidation, AMO wants to ensure that implementation does not result in greater costs for municipal taxpayers, who are already the largest funder of the affordable housing system in Ontario. Equally important is that this process should not result in decreased funding or services. 

Unlike the rest of Canada, social housing is a municipal responsibility in Ontario. Elsewhere, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for both the funding and delivery of housing programs. In Ontario, the province acts as a co-funder, while consolidated municipal service managers (CMSMs) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs) deliver the program components. Our municipalities contribute more than $1.2 billion to social housing every year, and as social housing stock ages, municipalities face increasing maintenance costs. Property taxpayers cannot be expected to further fund housing programs.
In 2011, the provincial and federal governments announced a 50-50 cost sharing agreement that committed $480.6 million in new funding over four years for the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) for Ontario program. One of the key changes to the Affordable Housing Framework and the Canada-Ontario IAH program is the range of flexibility, enabled through measures such as block funding provided to those delivering the program. 

The goal of a consolidated, responsive program is to put current funding to better use – with better outcomes for users. This transformation will require time. It will also require a coordinated effort on behalf of numerous provincial ministries, such as the Ministry of Health, which oversees the mental health component.

In the meantime, there is a continued and 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. 

AMO recognizes the challenges inherent in time-limited funding programs. While municipalities support the move towards greater local flexibility in funding and delivery of programs, this should come hand in hand with the recognition that implementing these changes will take time. 

Ontario Housing Facts

  • More than 260,000 households in Ontario spend more than 50% of their income on rent.
  • There are more than 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.