In the 2012 Ontario budget, the government announced that it was eliminating the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). 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 1, 2013, the CSUMB will end and 50 percent of its funding will be passed to municipalities as part of a consolidation of housing programs.
Communities and municipalities across the province have expressed extreme concern about the elimination of the CSUMB. The province is downloading only half of the program’s funding to municipalities and municipalities are struggling to plug the funding gap. Moreover, municipalities will not have homelessness prevention plans in place until 2014 – a full year after taking responsibility for the new program.
The elimination of the CSUMB means that people on social assistance who have unexpected or large housing-related costs could lose their housing and end up homeless. The Wellesley Institute came together with a collaboration of health, income security, and housing organizations to conduct a health equity impact assessment of the decision to eliminate the CSUMB. The report shows the eliminating the CSUMB will have inequitable and avoidable health impacts on populations that are already amongst the most vulnerable in Ontario.
The report warns that eliminating the CSUMB will affect the health of:
- Women and children in transition shelters fleeing domestic violence, who won’t be able to afford moving costs when they find a safe home;
- People trying to move from homeless shelters into housing;
- People who are trying to leave substandard housing wrought with bedbug infestations, mould and other poor housing conditions that lead to serious health problems; and
- People with disabilities, who often face significant barriers to safe and affordable housing.
These inequitable health outcomes can be avoided, however, if the Province reinstates the CSUMB.
But with time running out and no movement from the Province, the report calls for the elimination of the CSUMB to be delayed until 2014, which would give municipalities time to ensure that they can meet local housing needs. This would also provide time for the government to undertake a health equity impact assessment and to avoid the worst health impacts.