8 ways that Ontario’s Affordable Housing Update will help end Homelessness

Housing VissionOntario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update was announced today. Here are 8 ways that this update will help end homelessness in Ontario communities:

  1. Increasing CHPI Funding – CHPI stands for Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative. This is the provincial contribution to municipal level services for people experiencing homelessness. It is worth noting that in many communities, such as London, CHPI funds provide the vast bulk of government funding. At about 80% of the homelessness funding from governments in London, any adjustment has significant implications. So the announced $45M increase over 3 years (from $294M) is a good example of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’.
  2. Providing operating support for Supportive Housing – Housing First is a proven model and it involves rapid rehousing with supports. That last bit, with supports, can prove to be the biggest challenge in a stretched system. $100M in operating funding for supportive housing based on best practices will have a real impact in helping people find home, and most importantly, remain housed. This is homelessness prevention.
  3. Switching the affordable housing framework to focus on portability – We know that demand for affordable housing out-strips supply, yet we also know that there are vacant apartments throughout our community. A limitation of the current model of affordable housing is that the subsidy is attached to units rather than being attached to the individual who requires housing. Portable housing benefits that follow the individual will greatly assist our ability to help people move quickly from homeless to housed.
  4. Helping women leave violence without becoming homeless – When we consider pathways to homelessness for women, violence and trauma are over-arching concerns. Unfortunately, for many women leaving a violent relationship has equated to becoming homeless. So, considering portability mentioned above, a new portable benefit is being provided to help 3,000 survivors of domestic violence move to a new and safe home rather than becoming chronically homeless.
  5. Getting serious about Indigenous homelessness – Women aren’t the only population with unique needs around homelessness, and we have known for a very long time that Indigenous persons are vastly over-represented among the homeless. We are finally getting serious about the issue and collaborating on an Indigenous Housing Strategy.
  6. Innovating to increase the number of units – All the ways mentioned so far are about program specific supports with an impact on homelessness, but we do also simply need more supply of affordable units. Yes, we need new construction (see #8), but this is costly and slow. If we can integrate affordability into new construction already being done within the private sector we can increase supply more expediently. Inclusionary zoning is a model that allows municipal governments to put affordability requirements into agreements with private developers. Formerly impossible due to provincial legislation, the promise is for tools to make this doable.
  7. Getting our social housing act together – Existing social housing, provided as rent-geared-to-income, is an excellent model to provide housing to those on meager Ontario Works rates, yet a terrible model in terms of the financial impact on municipalities. The per unit revenue is simply insufficient to meet the capital costs and social support requirements for this type of housing. Thus, social housing has become stigmatized and into dis-repair. A strategy to reform, renew, and refinance social housing can greatly improve the quality of housing that is often the first home for people who have been chronically homeless.
  8. New supportive units – As mentioned above, we also simply need more units. Particularly, units that have support for particular populations. I would like to see managed alcohol as an example of new supportive units, but we shall see. 1,500 new units is a good starting target.