The Ontario government is helping households across the province cope with deep and persistent housing insecurity and homelessness by making a big 7% ($52.1 million) cut to spending at the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, according to the province’s fall economic account. Over the past four years, MAH has seen its annual operating funding cut by $222.4 million (that’s almost a quarter of a billion dollars) – adding up to a painfully deep 24% cut since fiscal 2005. Over the past four years, the cumulative spending cuts at MAH add up to $657.1 million. This is enough to finance the construction of more than 4,380 new affordable homes.
A new analysis by the Wellesley Institute shows that when it comes to housing, the Ontario government is giving with one hand, but taking away more with the other. According to the government’s official spending estimates, the biggest cuts at the MAH this year will be in the affordable housing program – $38.9 million. In particular, the social housing program – which assists some of the poorest households – will take almost all of the spending cuts. Fully 29 of Ontario’s 33 ministries will get funding increases in the current fiscal year, according to the economic statement. Only four – finance; northern development, mines, forestry; board of internal economy; and municipal affairs and housing – are taking financial cuts.
Government officials say that the massive operating funding cuts at MAH are offset by one-time spending including $100 million in fiscal 2007 for social housing repairs; and $585.3 million in the current fiscal year to match federal government housing spending. But those one-time initiatives were supposed to supplement existing spending, not replace current dollars. If the Ontario government had maintained MAH spending at $926 million (the level in fiscal 2005) over the past four years, there would be a cumulative total of $657.1 million more than the actual amount spent by the ministry over those years. That cumulative cut outpaces the one-time amounts added to the ministry – which means less money overall.