The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Rick Bartolucci, released the government’s long awaited affordable housing strategy.

The strategy promises a new spirit of collaboration. The strategy also commits to ensuring the current resources we have will meet the real needs of people in communities across Ontario. Most significantly, the strategy commits to removing complexities in the planning, funding and delivery of affordable and social housing programs, streamlining access to housing and lays the groundwork for ongoing change.

Highlights of the strategy include:
  • Clarification of provincial and municipal roles and responsibilities;
  • New legislation that is flexible, responsive and will assist municipal service managers in helping people get access to the services they need (the Social Housing Reform Act will be repealed);
  • Local planning and service delivery processes developed through collaborative planning;
  • First steps towards consolidation of the over twenty housing and homelessness programs and funding streams;
  • Introduction of a streamlined, tax based RGI program that reduces administrative complexities and access to housing;
  • Developing flexible wait lists where service managers can collaborate across municipalities;
  • The government is maintaining the Special Priority Policy but commits to seeking solutions for unintended consequences of the policy;
  • The government is expanding the mandate of the Social Housing Services Corporation. To reflect this expanded mandate, the Corporation will now be known as the `Housing Services Corporation`;
  • Ongoing commitment to energy efficiency;
  • Including affordable housing in the Planning Act and permitting secondary units; and
  • Continued advocacy to secure federal commitment to affordable housing.

AMO is pleased that the governments’ strategy reflects recommendations of the Provincial Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review and recognizes municipalities as a core element of success to their strategy. Specifically, we are pleased that the government will be moving ahead - while in a phased approach - with the consolidation of the over twenty housing and homelessness funding streams and programs.  AMO is also pleased that service managers will now be able to plan with local stakeholders to better identify and prioritize responses and funding for people in need of housing and services.

The new strategy is important for municipalities in a number of ways including, as mentioned, reducing funding and planning barriers and providing municipalities with the authority to make decisions without ministerial consent. Rather than delivery agents, municipalities are rightly recognized as the core funders and program managers who best understand the needs of people in their communities.

But, AMO recognizes that good policy and planning can only go so far. New funding is needed. The government does contribute approximately $450 million annually to affordable housing - but the need for more is great. AMO anticipates that as the economy improves, the government will commit to funding their strategy and addressing the growing affordable housing pressures in Ontario with new funding.

AMO will support the Province in its advocacy efforts to encourage the federal government to commit to a national housing plan. The federal government did recently renew funding for the Housing Partnership Strategy for another three years. However, currently, the federal commitment to affordable housing is short term and declining with $144 million targeted to municipalities set to disappear in the next decade.

Transforming a system does not happen overnight. The government recognizes this and has committed to working with AMO and municipalities on the regulation and ongoing program development. While implementing this strategy will take time it will also require money. The potential for increased administrative costs and responsibilities will need to be addressed.

AMO welcomes the opportunity to make sure that our resources are used in the most efficient way so that people can get access to the services they need. We also welcome the opportunity to make sure that we get the planning for our communities and our future right.