The Ontario government is cutting $21 million from provincial homelessness prevention funding given to the City of Toronto as of January 1, 2013.
Details about the massive 16% cut in provincial funding is set out in a report that will be considered by Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee on Tuesday. When the provincial government announced its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy in 2010, the province didn’t announce any new funding or programs, but it did promise that municipalities would have more “flexibility” in allocating existing funding.
While the lack of housing targets, timelines and adequate funding in the provincial housing plan raised serious concerns for housing experts, the promise of flexibility was welcomed as an important step towards ensuring that municipalities can target available funds to meet the diverse needs in their communities. While the province has delivered on its promise of flexibility, it has also delivered a massive cut in funding at a time when precarious housing and homelessness remains deep and persistent in Toronto and across Ontario.
Among the provincial cuts are: a loss of $12.8 million with the reduction and reallocation of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit (which helps very low income people access and maintain housing; a cut of $2.7 million in medically-based benefits for welfare recipients; and, a cut of $5.5 million in homeless shelters.
In addition, the elimination of the Hardship Fund, which pays for medical benefits for the poorest Torontonians, which was ordered by Toronto City Council last year, is scheduled to take effect at the end of December 2012 and will lead to the loss of another $1 million in vital services for some of the most vulnerable and medically-compromised residents of the city.