We’re now less than two weeks away from the Government of Ontario terminating the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) and an impending and avoidable housing and homelessness crisis. The CSUMB helps people receiving social assistance to pay for large or unexpected housing-related costs, supporting them to become and remain housed. As of January 1st, this benefit will be terminated and 50 percent of its funding will be passed to municipalities to run their own programs, which as yet are mostly undefined; the remaining 50 percent will be cut.
Last month the Wellesley Institute released a health equity impact assessment with a coalition of health, housing, and income security experts on the termination of the CSUMB: The Real Cost of Cutting the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.
Our analysis found that terminating the CSUMB would disproportionately affect the health of women and children fleeing domestic violence, people trying to move from homeless shelters into housing, people trying to leave substandard housing, and people with disabilities who often face significant barriers to safe and affordable housing.
Last week the Wellesley Institute participated in the Ontario Communities Unite forum in Hamilton to discuss the potential impacts of terminating the CSUMB. The forum drew representatives from Windsor, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Brant, Niagara, Toronto, Hamilton, Peterborough, Belleville, Halton, Peel, and York Regions.
Each community reported how municipalities were struggling to deal with the impact of the CSUMB being terminated. Some are creating replacement programs – and many are relying on reserve funds for temporary financing – while others are not. This will lead to a patchwork of programs across the province where the level of services that people receive will depend on where they live and how long the funding lasts.
The unintended consequences of the decision to eliminate the CSUMB are significant. In our health equity impact assessment we called on the government to reverse its decision or, at the very least, to delay the cut for 12 months to give municipalities time to respond as part of their housing and homelessness plans.
Now, with less than two weeks to go, we call again on the government to hit pause. We can still ensure that health of already marginalized populations is not made worse.