Ontario Affordable Housing Strategy: Many small steps towards a big vision

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We are at a pivotal moment for affordable housing in Ontario. NIMBYism is slowing being replaced with an increase in community consensus that affordable housing contributes to great neighbourhoods and an understanding that most people will need some type of affordable housing at least once in their lives. In Hamilton we’re now seeing more residents advocating  for more affordable housing in their neighbourhoods, such as the West Harbour.

The province’s updated affordable housing strategy, released today, contains both small and medium sized initiatives that could have a very big impact in the long term but they won’t solve Ontario’s affordable housing crisis overnight.

The SPRC has been calling for a commitment to inclusionary zoning legislation for years which would allow municipalities to mandate some affordable rental and ownership opportunities in all new private developments. We are happy to see this change included in today’s strategy.

There are other very welcome initiatives such as:

  • a commitment to transform Ontario’s patchwork and outdated supportive housing system;
  • continued improvements to the housing subsidy system including improved access and portability;
  • a strategy to improve housing conditions for off-reserve Indigenous people; and
  • building code amendments and development charge exemptions making it easier for developers to include basement apartments and granny flats in subdivisions

A big gap in the strategy is the lack of a comprehensive solution to address the funding gaps for social housing and improving conditions for tenants living in sub-standard older buildings.

One of the biggest shifts in the strategy is in the updated vision. In the old vision there was only a general commitment to improving access to affordable housing which still left many without. Now the province has set a specific target in its vision, stating it wants to ensure “every person” has access to affordable housing. That vision means the province will need to continue increasing funding and improve policies to get there.

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