In this eBulletin:
- Quote of the Day
- 25 in 5 Welcomes Social Assistance Review; Recommends Interim Steps
- Ontario’s Proposed Affordable Housing Plan Fails to Meet Five Basic Tests set by Housing Network of Ontario
“People who live in poverty want the chance to live with dignity and they want real opportunities to escape poverty through jobs. This review is Ontario’s chance to fix too much that’s standing in the way of the aspirations that so many of us have been denied. This is a big step in the face of so many challenges facing our province. The dreams of a better future from those who are poor are the same dreams we all share for a more prosperous province where everyone belongs.”
Who said it? Pat Capponi, of Voices from the Street and 25 in 5, at the government’s announcement on the Social Assistance Review and Special Diet Allowance.
TORONTO (30 Nov 2010) – The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction welcomes the news that Ontario’s long awaited Social Assistance Review will start in January and be led by two very able commissioners: Frances Lankin and Dr. Munir Sheikh.
“We’re very pleased with the broad terms of reference for this review. It will provide recommendations not only on how to transform social assistance but on how it should connect to other income security programs that many of us need to rely on at some point in our lives, such as disability support programs and Employment Insurance,” said Jacquie Maund, Coordinator of Ontario Campaign 2000.
“This is the right thing to do for poverty reduction and for a strong Ontario economy. We want everyone to be able to achieve their full potential to contribute to our economy and society. Our income security system needs to be re-equipped to respond to economic pressures and support people through rough times – it’s not doing that now. ”
The broad terms of reference for the review of social assistance show that the Ontario government listened to the advice of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council. They reflect the call for revamped income security programs to ensure that people receiving social assistance can live in dignity and be provided the supports and opportunities they need to move into the workforce if they are able to work.
“We are pleased with the choice of commissioners, Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh. These are people with integrity who know the value of listening to the community and developing policy recommendations based on solid evidence. We encourage them to hear directly from people who are on the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Programs about the changes needed,” said Mike Creek, Co- Chair of 25 in 5.
This review will start in January and continue for 18 months. It will be supported by a commission of civil servants and poverty advisors.
“An 18 month review gives the commissioners time to do the job right – but that should not stop the government from taking interim measures to respond to people’s immediate needs. People across Ontario are struggling now to survive on extremely low social assistance rates. A single person receives only $592/month. The 25 in 5 Network is calling for an immediate increase of $100 a month for adults on social assistance,” said Jacquie Maund. “We also urge the Government to move forward on creating an Ontario Housing Benefit.”
Government also announced that it is looking to the 2008 Special Diets Expert Review Panel’s report to improve the Special Diet allowance Program as an interim measure until the Social Assistance Review is complete.
“We see the Government’s decision to include the Special Diet Allowance in the broader Social Assistance Review as a positive step,” says Mike Creek.
The Ontario government released its much anticipated Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy today, but the document failed to provide a plan that meets all five basic tests set out by the Housing Network of Ontario and its almost 500 supporters across the province.
“The Ontario government has proposed some new legislation and administrative procedures that are useful and important, but the essential items for a long-term affordable housing plan – targets, timeline, and most of all funding over a multi-year period – are missing. It’s like they’ve put up the scaffolding, but then forgot to give the workers the tools that they need to get the job done,” says Michael Shapcott, co-Chair of the Housing Network of Ontario. “By the end of this fiscal year, capital funding for new affordable housing is set to shrink to zero. Investment in building new homes and repairing existing rundown housing not only helps the people living in that housing, but also provides a solid boost to the economy, including jobs and even additional tax revenue for the government.”
“The government’s promise to more effectively measure affordable housing and issue annual reports is helpful, but without specific targets, timelines and funding, it’s hard to provide accountability for results. Thousands of Ontarians took part in public consultations last year, calling for sustained funding to build at least 10,000 affordable new homes annually and better maintenance of existing housing; a universal housing benefit; support services to make housing truly affordable and accessible; changes to housing legislation; proper accountability; and clear ways to measure progress in the fight against housing-related poverty,” says Shapcott.
There are 141,635 Ontario households on the waiting list for affordable housing with a wait of up to 21 years. Census data indicates that 1 in every 5 tenant households in Ontario pays over 50% of their income on rent and 626,255 households in Ontario are unable to find acceptable housing that costs 30% or less of their income.
“The decision to scrap the cruel and administratively burdensome Social Housing Reform Act is a big step forward, but other legislative changes are needed also, including stronger tenant protection laws and inclusionary housing rules to allow municipalities to require a percentage of all new developments to be set aside for affordable housing,” says Shapcott. “There’s plenty of unfinished business to complete before the Ontario government can turn its current proposal into a truly comprehensive long-term affordable housing plan.”
The Housing Network of Ontario is a provincial network of affordable housing advocates with over 450 organizations and individuals who have endorsed the Housing Network of Ontario Declaration. Members of the HNO attended both government sponsored and community organized housing consultations in 2009.