What is being done to address the issue of housing affordability ?

By Staff

September 22, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The evidence is in, and it is overwhelming. The cost of housing has grown much more quickly than household incomes. The past year has seen housing affordability discussed frequently as the impact of COVID-19 on changing work arrangements has created different opportunities for where people are located. This Community Dispatch will look at what is being done to address the issue of housing affordability.

Federal
Based on the belief that every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable home, The National Housing Strategy (NHS) is a 10 year, $70-billion plan that the federal government has put in place to create a new generation of housing in Canada that is affordable and inclusive. The NHS is designed as a toolkit to address challenges across the housing continuum and spectrum of housing needs, with its initial focus on vulnerable Canadians including women and children fleeing violence, Indigenous peoples, seniors, and newcomers to Canada. The National Housing Strategy will result in up to 100, 000 new housing units and 300, 000 repaired or renewed housing units creating an entirely new generation of housing in Canada.

Using a mix of funding, grants, and loans, the strategy will create affordable, stable, and livable communities that are mixed-income, accessible (located near amenities and transportation), and sustainable. Rising house prices have made home ownership more difficult. Additionally, Canada’s rental housing supply is aging, many buildings are in poor shape and in need of costly repairs, and the overall supply is not keeping up with the needs in many cities. Therefore, by bringing together the public, private and non-profit sectors, the NHS can create new affordable housing supply by increasing the capacity of the community housing sector, increase funding for building new affordable shelters and supportive housing, encourage construction of sustainable rental apartments using low-cost loans, and utilize surplus lands and buildings to create socially inclusive housing that provides solutions to housing challenges. However, recent analysis of the NHS by the Parliamentary Budget Officer has found that the impact on housing need has been limited over its first three years.

Housing is a federal issue.

While ambitious in its targets, the NHS’s program design is not beyond critique. Its centrepiece financial instrument, the Rental Construction Finance Initiative (RCFI), for example, is ostensibly designed to address rental stock gaps by providing housing developers with quicker access to loans, thereby accelerating housing supply. Critics have argued that the RCFI – which is receiving 85% of the total increase in the NHS budget – may help increase housing supply for “middle income renter demand,” but the inflated income thresholds used in its framework impedes it from providing significant affordable housing solutions (see CURE Brief, Review of RCFI, Jan, 2021).

Provincial
The government of Ontario is supporting the goals of the National Housing Strategy through the Community Housing Renewal Strategy and the Housing Supply Action Plan. 56% of renter households in Ontario cannot afford the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment ($1,266). Rising housing costs have a significant impact on low-income households, and many require some form of assistance through the community housing system.

The Community Housing Renewal Strategy outlines how the government of Ontario will work with community partners to stabilize and grow the community housing sector. It is proven that when people have the housing they need, they have better health, education, and employment outcomes.

The province needs to show serious leadership if the number of new affordable housing are to be built.

When housing is affordable and in areas near transit, schools, workplaces and amenities, individuals have the opportunity to manage their lives and raise their families. Community housing provides a home for people working in low-income jobs, for seniors, those living on social assistance, and for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health and addictions challenges and for people who have experienced homelessness, domestic violence, or human trafficking. Community housing provides homes to over 250,000 families and individuals across Ontario.

In order to increase the supply of market housing, the Ontario government is developing a detailed Housing Supply Action Plan to create more affordable and good quality places to live. During an online consultation, more than half of the submissions from the general public said their top criteria when looking for a home were affordability, followed by transit, schools, and services located nearby. By making the most of infrastructure investments and encouraging more density around major transit stations the plan will make it easier to build the right types of housing in the right places and help Ontarians find a home that meets their needs and budget.

Halton
The success of the National Housing Strategy also requires collaboration with municipalities to empower communities to create strategic plans and locally informed approaches to curb and reduce homelessness while creating new housing opportunities for vulnerable residents. The Comprehensive Housing Strategy, initiated in 2014, serves as the Region’s 10 year housing and homelessness plan that strives to encourage and protect affordable housing in Halton. In 2019, Regional Council endorsed the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Update 2014-2024 – Five-year Review, which provides updated actions and targets for the CHS. These include creating a range and mix of new housing across the housing continuum to meet the needs of the Halton community; protecting existing rental housing so that it continues to be available to residents; and, providing coordinated services to Halton residents who need support to obtain or maintain their housing.

The State of Housing Report is prepared annually to provide a review of housing supply and demand and is used to inform the Comprehensive Housing Strategy.

Halton is a community of more than half a million people with some of the most expensive housing in the province – creating affordable and attainable housing is proving to be a challenge.

Halton’s vision includes advancing the supply of an adequate mix and variety of housing to meet differing physical, social, and economic needs. The report also assesses the Region’s success in achieving its Regional Official Plan housing targets that call for at least 50% of new housing units produced annually in Halton to be in the form of townhouses or multi-storey buildings, and at least 30% of new housing units produced to be affordable or assisted housing.

Halton’s Housing Model gathers various information including household income, household spending, housing costs, and average rents in the region from a variety of data sources including Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Statistics Canada, and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

An analysis is then conducted on this data that generates thresholds based on household income and housing cost and that calculation is undertaken for both the assisted and affordable (non-assisted) segments of the housing continuum. A table showing the income and housing cost thresholds in included below.

Income and Housing Cost Thresholds table from the State of Housing Report 2020, Halton Region

Lasting impact of COVID-19
According to the Oakville Resiliency Report of 2020, the pandemic has also made the task of finding affordable housing more difficult. Cost of housing including rentals have fluctuated and many congregate living situations have become dangerous due to the difficulty of physical distancing. Long-term care facilities were hit the hardest by the pandemic with overwhelming outbreaks among residents and staff.

Emergency shelters were also impacted by the pandemic, having to reduce their capacity to abide by social distancing guidelines. Within Halton, a new shelter for families and single women was acquired, while the Lighthouse Shelter was transformed to a men’s only shelter with targeted mental health supports. As well, hotels were being leveraged as needed to address surge demand.

According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board Market Watch, as of August 2021 the average sale price for a home in Halton was $1,206,016, an increase of 17% from the previous year.

The pandemic has created extra challenges and exacerbated others. For women in abusive relationships, there was increased risk when stay at home orders were implemented and violence escalated. According to Halton Women’s Place, shelter capacity decreased based on Covid guidelines, leaving many fleeing violence unable to secure space. As a result, women were waiting longer to come. It is anticipated that there will be a surge after the pandemic ends.

Evictions during the pandemic rose – then there was a ban – but the ban ended.

Changes to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) in the context of the pandemic have also impacted low- income and otherwise marginalized tenants and brought awareness to inequalities and accessibility concerns moving towards online hearings, as documented by Ontario Legal Clinics. Access to technology is highly unequal and the LTB cannot assume that all individuals have equal access to computers, internet connection, phone minutes, or the private space to participate meaningfully in hearings. Additionally, accessing legal assistance or advice during the pandemic when many legal clinic staff are working remotely is challenging especially with short timelines and delays in processing of important documents electronically. With these changes, the LTB has a responsibility to ensure that its response to COVID-19 does not unfairly exacerbate homelessness or the effects of the pandemic on racialized, Black, and Indigenous communities, or renters living in poverty.

This Community Dispatch was produced by Community Development Halton, a not for profit organization that focuses on community development for the Region.

Related news stories that will be published in the near future are on: Inclusionary Zoning; newer forms of housing arrangements and Renovictions – a rather nasty practice some landlords are  using.

 

 

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2 comments to What is being done to address the issue of housing affordability ?

  • Alfred

    Edgar.

    The bad news is that no one wants to be landlords any longer. As a result we have a shortage of rental housing, which drives prices through the roof. Your Mayor really doesn’t want rental housing in Burlington. She simply plays lip service to it. Do you know how many rental units construction have been delayed by her anti-development stand. Politicians are here for today and aren’t concerned for the problems they create down the road.

  • Edgar

    We are a retired couple with a state pension of $2,790 a month. According to economists, we are supposed to be paying 30% of our income as rent each month. Could someone please tell us where in Burlington we can rent an apartment for $900 a month? If we have to move for any reason in the future, we will be have a major problem considering the average rent in Burlington for a 1 bedroom apartment is now $1,850 a month……More has to be done for Burlington’s seniors.

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