Ahmed Hussen, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Funding gives renters a break

  • December 24, 2019

A pledge to spend $1.4 billion helping people find shelter in an increasingly unaffordable housing market in Ontario has Catholic social agencies cautiously optimistic.

“Housing is such a fundamental need,” said Catholic Charities social justice and advocacy co-ordinator Jack Panozzo. “If this housing investment positively affects people being served by a Catholic Charities member agency, then it will help in their outreach to people who are struggling to live on very low incomes.”

The $1.4 billion is part of an Ottawa-Queen’s Park agreement under the National Housing Strategy, which has earmarked $5.7 billion over 10 years to reduce provincial homelessness by 50 per cent. On Dec. 19 federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen, along with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, announced the funding to help renters under the Canada Housing Benefit.

The money will be available to renters who are either on or eligible to be on a social housing waiting list, plus others who can’t afford market rents in their communities. Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, people at risk of homelessness, Indigenous people, seniors and the disabled will be prioritized.

There are more than 480,000 people on waiting lists for subsidized housing in Ontario, more than 100,000 of them in Toronto. Statistics Canada reports that from 1991 to 2016, the proportion of Ontario households that need a subsidy to afford rent increased from 12 to 16 per cent. Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs says 56 per cent of renters can’t afford the average $1,266 a month it costs for a two-bedroom apartment.

Ontario is the first province or territory to come to agreement with Ottawa on how to spend the money in the National Housing Strategy, which was first announced in 2017.

Housing is a big problem for the young mothers the Rose of Sharon supports in Newmarket and throughout York Region, said Rose of Sharon executive director Anna Pavan.

“A majority of our moms have housing concerns to start off with,” she said. “This is a great move forward. We will see how it will unfold.”

Nationally, Canada has committed to reduce homelessness by a minimum of 50 per cent by 2030 under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But Pavan believes the goal should be total elimination.

“It’s hard to imagine it ever being eliminated, but at least working towards that,” Pavan said.

The City of Toronto pledged to build 40,000 new affordable homes and declared housing a human right in a Dec. 17 city council vote. The 10-year HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan aims to help more than 341,000 city households. The project will cost $23.4 billion, of which the city says it has $8.5 billion in “current and future investments.”

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