Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Jeffrey, Minister Piruzza, and Minister McMeekin,
We are writing as a coalition of concerned organizations to urge you to respond without delay to the growing crisis in housing and homelessness across Ontario. While there are many housing needs across the province, we need your government to commit – as quickly as possible and before the new year – to make permanent $42 million in "transition funding" for critically important housing and homelessness funds administered by municipalities under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).
Municipalities across Ontario are in the midst of planning their budgets for the coming year. Decisions about housing and homelessness funding will be made very soon. Municipalities – and the low income Ontarians who live in them – need your guarantee that you are on their side.
Municipalities have been given the responsibility and flexibility to respond to their communities' housing and homelessness issues through CHPI. But they can't adequately respond to the need in their communities if the funds are not there to do the job.
When the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) was eliminated from social assistance beginning in January 2013, only half of previously designated funds ($67 million in 2013-14) were transferred to CMSMs and DSSABs, using a formula that didn't respond to real time housing needs.
Some municipalities responded to the loss of CSUMB by creating their own, similar funds to provide direct funding for first and last month's rent, rental and utilities arrears, and other costs that ensure people are able to become housed or stay in their homes. Eligibility criteria and funded costs vary across the province, as do amounts of funding provided. Some municipalities did not create their own locally administered funds, so low income Ontarians in those communities have no source of direct support.
In December 2012, government responded to community concern by instituting a onetime $42 million "transition fund" to help municipalities deal with the loss of CSUMB and the move to community-based homelessness prevention. Those funds run out in March 2014.
In some areas of the province, designated funds for this purpose may have been underspent. This does not indicate a lack of need in communities, but rather the reality that the roll-out of the transition to CHPI funding was plagued with difficulties, resulting in many low income people either not attempting to access or being denied direct funding for their housing and homelessness-related needs. The transition to CHPI funding was also complicated by the new cap put on discretionary benefits. More funding is required for municipalities to find the right balance to provide for the need in their communities, and for low income Ontarians to become aware of funds that might be available.
While the $42 million will not replace CSUMB, it will go some way to ensuring that low income people in communities across Ontario will have the funds they need to secure housing and to prevent losing their housing, due directly to lack of income. The ripple effects of the devastating loss of CSUMB continue to be felt across the province. Low income Ontarians need your government's guarantee that funds they need to get housing or stay housed will be there when they need them. The least they deserve is to have the additional $42 million in transition funding made permanently available to municipalities.
Research & Policy Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre
425 Adelaide Street West, 5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C1
Phone: 416-597-5820 x 5155