Ontario is a desirable place to live, and is attracting a record number of newcomers, which is great for our economy and our province. Unfortunately, far too many Ontarians are living in unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable housing, and do not have access to better options in their community. And this is getting worse. There is a housing crisis in this province and we have to do better.
Thousands of Ontarians experience chronic homelessness. In addition to the human toll, estimates put the public cost in excess of $55,000 per person. This real cost in health services, policing, shelters and other services far exceeds the cost of social services that could be provided alongside supportive housing. Even for those who are more housing-secure, affordability remains a pressing issue. Today 30% of Ontario households rent their home, with at least one-third of those households spending more than 50% of their income on housing.
Investing in adequate housing is investing in the well-being of families for generations to come.
Kate’s 12-point plan
1) End chronic homelessness within first mandate. Work with Service System Managers on a province-wide plan, including improved data collection, and increase funding by $100M for homelessness prevention and housing programs to assist in doing so. We will also combine the current “shelter” and “basic needs” ODSP and Ontario Works amounts into a simplified flat rate, tied to inflation, ready to be paired with the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit, slated to begin April 2020.
2) Commit to funding one-third of the cost of addressing the housing and homelessness crisis. The province needs to be a partner in solving Ontario’s affordable housing crisis. Municipalities are hard at work developing long-term targets for housing and homelessness, but these targets will not be met without a willing provincial partner.
3) Take an “affordable housing first” approach to surplus government lands; identify and unlock land within 100 days of taking office. Partnering with municipalities on the development process will get units built faster. Municipalities will have one year of provincial support from the date of identification to make sites shovel ready. We need to streamline the development process, particularly for non-profit and affordable housing.
4) Extend the life of 260,000 community-owned rental homes by investing $100 million each year for 10 years. The cheapest unit is one you don’t have to build or rebuild. This includes tackling the repair backlog, restoring funding for energy-efficient retrofits, and improving both community amenities and quality of life for residents.
5) Immediately get to work on an Indigenous Housing Strategy. The rights of Indigenous peoples to adequate housing, and to be involved in developing and administering that housing, must be part of a long-term plan. Indigenous peoples experience a higher rate of homelessness than most population groups, and they are more likely to experience problems related to housing unaffordability and disrepair. Working in partnership with Indigenous peoples, Indigenous communities and Indigenous community organizations, Ontario will develop a long-overdue Indigenous Housing Strategy with an aim to help deliver culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led housing solutions.
6) Develop a $50 million co-operative housing development fund to help offset the cost of project development for new co-op housing. Ontario families deserve better affordable housing options and this fund will help reduce development risk and make building new co-op housing possible. The housing created under this co-op development fund will be affordable forever and provide affordable living options for future generations.
7) Invest $200 million to introduce a rent-to-own program to promote affordable home ownership for 10,000 middle-class households. We need to move forward with creative housing solutions that make it easier for working families to afford homes. Under the program, people could rent their home for up to 5 years from the city or a non-profit partner before buying that home at a predetermined price. The application process will be developed in consultation with housing providers.
The program will be self-financing after the initial investment as money cycles through a revolving fund when homes are sold by the primary owners to support new owners.
8) Increase the speculation tax on non-resident home buyers to 20%. From mid-February 2018 to the end of March 2019, the 15 per cent tax on purchases netted the government $221 million. Any revenue generated from the tax increase will go directly toward affordable housing and for financial incentives to encourage housing solutions for the middle class.
9) Expand the Portable Housing Benefit for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. We need to ensure that survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking have access to housing and make applying for the program easier. Survivors should not be forced to live with someone who is abusing them because they cannot secure housing. We will invest an additional $5 million a year in this important program.
10) Empower municipalities to decide where to apply inclusionary zoning and conditional zoning. Municipalities need every possible tool at their disposal to tackle Ontario’s affordable housing crisis and inclusionary and conditional zoning have massive potential to deliver affordable units. The province should work with municipalities to maximize benefits instead of limiting where and how these tools are used.
11) Protect tenants and reintroduce rent control. Earlier this year, the Doug Ford government announced that rent control rules will no longer protect tenants who move into new residential units. If you move into an apartment, a condo unit, or a basement unit that was first rented out after November 15, 2018, there is no cap on how much your landlord can increase your rent.
We will reverse this change to protect all tenants include all rental apartments — new and old — in rent control guidelines. Nobody’s right to affordable housing should be at the mercy of a landlord.
12) Address labour shortages in the construction industry. The construction industry in Ontario, especially in the GTHA, will face a huge shortage of skilled labour over the next ten years, and many construction projects may have trouble finding the workers they need. Among other measures, we need to consider ways to improve recruitment and public awareness, increase the labour mobility of skilled tradespeople, and provide skilled tradespeople with professional development opportunities to improve their skills. This complicated issue requires better data and planning, and a long-term strategy all stakeholders can accept. We will work with other levels of government, the construction industry, and labour stakeholders, to ensure a collaborative, multi-faceted approach.