Ontario has made a substantial down payment to meet the housing needs of tens of thousands of people who are precariously housed or homeless. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and housing minister Jim Watson have announced plans today to invest $624.5 million over the next two years in affordable housing initiatives. When combined with matching federal dollars, it amounts to more than $1.2 billion. The Ontario government says that the money will be used to fund:
• repairs to 50,000 rundown social housing homes (including energy efficiency) for a combined federal-provincial investment of $704 million (an average of $14,000 per unit); and,
• funding for 4,500 new affordable homes for seniors, people with disabilities and other low-income households for a combined federal-provincial investment of $545 million (an average of $120,000 per unit).
The funding for the 4,500 new affordable homes will flow in three categories:
• $370 million for affordable homes for seniors and people with disabilities; and,
• $175 million for affordable homes by extending the existing Canada-Ontario affordable housing program.
Not only will 55,000 households get new or renovated homes, but there will be a multi-billion-dollar boost to the provincial economy, including thousands of good quality jobs in the construction and related sectors, at a time when the stimulus is urgently needed. The new investments will also breathe life into the consultations for a new provincial housing plan, which are expected to start in the next two or three months.
Today’s provincial housing announcement meets the first priority set out by the Wellesley Institute in our 2009 budget recommendations to the Government of Ontario, which was to fully match federal affordable housing dollars. But provincial housing investments still lag behind the deep and persistent need across the province, and Ontario is lagging behind provides such as Alberta in making commitments for urgently needed new housing investments.
Ontario has done well to make the substantial down payment towards a new provincial housing strategy, but it must keep moving forward. Additional investments are required in new homes to meet the growing housing needs across the province; repairs to rundown housing; a new Ontario housing benefit to help the one-in-four Ontario households that are living in unaffordable homes; plus support services for people with physical and mental health concerns, and emergency relief (shelters, support and transitional housing) to help the tens of thousands of Ontarians who are experiencing homelessness.