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Province-wide $1-billion social housing investment announced in Newmarket

York Region has worst supply of community housing in Ontario, minister says
April 18, 2019
Lisa Queen

Pointing out York Region has the worst per-capita supply of social housing in Ontario, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced a $1-billion investment in community housing across the province.

“Right now, there are too many families living in places that are overcrowded … and some of them just aren’t safe. Across the province there is a shortage of good community housing for those who need it most,” he said at Newmarket’s Old Town Hall on April 17.

“York Region is not immune. In fact, it has the lowest supply of social housing compared to its population in the province.”

More than 16,000 people are now on the region’s social housing waiting list compared to 4,500 a dozen years ago, meaning some applicants wait more than a decade for a unit, Newmarket Mayor John Taylor, chair of Housing York, said.

The province is providing more than $1 billion in 2019-1920 to help maintain, repair and increase community housing and reduce homelessness, Clark said.

“This money will go directly to communities and much of it is flexible so that it can be invested in solutions that best meet local needs,” Clark said.

The strategy includes asset tests to ensure housing goes to tenants in the greatest need. In a sampling of communities, the auditor general found that about 900 people on waiting lists owned at least one home, 709 applicants had assets worth more than 500,000 and 65 had assets of more than $1 million.

The strategy also includes removing penalties for tenants working more hours or going to college or university, simplifying the convoluted rent-geared-to-income process, putting a stop to the current system that allows applicants to refuse housing offers three times, ensuring tenants receiving child support payments aren’t penalized and letting housing providers turn away tenants who have convicted for criminal activity.

Taylor called Clark’s announcement “welcome news” for people who are constantly struggling to make ends meet.

Municipalities can’t solve serious affordable housing concerns without funding from the provincial and federal governments, he added.
Housing York general manager Rick Farrell applauded the province's investment but is hoping more affording housing support comes from the provincial and federal governments comes to the region.