Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement – a little-known but very important document that sets planning and zoning rules for municipalities – needs to strengthened so that it can be an important tool for local communities to address affordable housing needs. The Wellesley Institute’s submission to the five-year review of the PPS sets out a series of practical recommendations. The PPS review continues until October 29, and we are encouraging everyone (affordable housing providers, municipalities, urban planners, business groups, faith communities, people who are precariously housed) to have their say. You can support the recommendations in the Wellesley Institute brief, and add your own comments.
At the start of 2010, the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association reported that 141,635 households were on affordable housing waiting lists across the province – an increase of 9.6% from the previous year. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that 627,500 Ontario households were in core housing need in 2006, including one-in-three renter households. Precarious housing has a deep and persistent impact not only on the health and lives of those who directly experience it, but insecure housing also disrupts communities, as well as the economy.
To respond to deep and persistent housing insecurity, the Ontario government has more than 20 programs managed by three ministries, yet the Ontario Auditor General in his 2009 annual report raised concerns about effectiveness and co-ordination of housing programs and investments.
After a six-month consultation in 2009 to create a long-term affordable housing strategy, the provincial housing ministry said that the plan “is anticipated for release in 2010.” The plan will be an important tool in meeting the housing needs of Ontarians. The Housing Network of Ontario has set out five key tests for success in the long-term housing plan and the Wellesley Institute has offered our own specific recommendations.
While the government needs to adopt a comprehensive approach, including the long-awaiting long-term affordable housing strategy, it can take immediate steps regarding planning and zoning policies at the local level. We recommend that the PPS must be significantly strengthened in order to make it into an effective affordable housing mandate. Revisions particularly are needed to these four critical provisions:
1. The statement must establish a clear obligation for all municipal jurisdictions to use all of their available powers and resources in an affirmative and pro-active way in providing for affordable housing.
2. The statement must define affordable housing effectively as “below-market housing” – that is, housing that is provided at a price or rent substantially below that available for the equivalent new housing in each community.
3. The statement must set fair, measurable and demanding affordable housing targets for each municipal jurisdiction.
4. The statement must establish systems for monitoring the performance of the municipalities in providing for affordable housing, and holding them accountable for meeting their targets.