What government is responsible for affordable housing in Ontario?

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| Published , updated April 3, 2024

In Ontario, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), 2020 states that municipalities’ planning departments are responsible for providing:

an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area.

Municipalities implement the PPS through their official plans, zoning by-laws and decisions on planning applications.

For example, the City of Belleville, Ontario’s Official Plan (2021) states:

The Municipality will accommodate appropriate affordable and market-based housing consisting of a mix of residential types to meet long-term needs. Further, the Municipality is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing units across the City

For example, Barrie’s Affordable Housing Strategy focuses on addressing the supply of housing in the moderate-income segment of the continuum, from Affordable Rental Housing to Market Home Ownership, while the County of Simcoe – the designated Service Manager for Barrie under the Housing Services Act, 2011 – is responsible for planning, funding and managing social housing programs and homelessness services:

Federal government’s role

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which is responsible for implementing Canada’s National Housing Act, is a federal crown corporation that provides mortgage insurance, sets rules for who can qualify for mortgage insurance, collects data about housing in Canada, and more.

CMHC says it:

exists for a single reason: to make housing affordable for everyone in Canada

The federal government also controls many institutions and areas of policy which affect the price and availability of housing in Canada, such as:

  • Immigration (particularly international students and temporary foreign residents)
  • Federal fiscal policy
  • Bank regulations

More: Housing and Parliamentary Action – 1930 to 1999

Federal government’s constitutional role

The Constitution or legislation sometimes explicitly states which level of government is responsible for a particular issue, but this is not the case with housing. The word housing doesn’t appear in the Constitution.

Jurisprudence has generally interpreted the Constitution that matters of local things are seen as being provincial jurisdiction. So the legal interpretation of the Constitution in a very strict review would allocate responsibility for housing to the provinces.

Steve Pomeroy, an industry professor and executive advisor at the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative at McMaster University.

Federal affordable housing programs

Province’s role: Ontario

Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)

Planning authorities shall provide for an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area by establishing and implementing minimum targets for the provision of housing which is affordable to low and moderate income households and which aligns with applicable housing and homelessness plans

Section 1.4.3 Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 under the Planning Act

Provincial housing program

Municipalities’ role

Decisions made by councils under the Planning Act must follow provincial policy direction and “shall be consistent with” the PPS.

Municipalities implement the PPS through their official plans, zoning by-laws and decisions on planning applications. Municipal official plans are the primary vehicle for implementing the PPS and provincial plans.

This means that the PPS must be applied when making land use planning decisions and in developing planning documents, such as official plans and zoning by-laws. Every planning situation must be examined in light of the relevant PPS policies.

The PPS provides the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land in Ontario. The PPS includes direction on matters such as managing growth and new development, housing, economic development, natural heritage, agriculture, mineral aggregates, water and natural and human-made hazards.

Municipal affordable housing programs

Example: Belleville, Ontario Official Plan

The Municipality will accommodate appropriate affordable and market-based housing consisting of a mix of residential types to meet long-term needs. Further, the Municipality is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing units across the City

Section 2.2.12 of City of Belleville Official Plan (2021)

The Municipality will accommodate a range of housing choices to meet the growing and changing needs of the City. This will include one unit dwellings, townhouse dwellings, multi-unit dwellings and condominiums. The provision of these housing types will be varied, with some stock being provided on greenfield lands, and others in strategic infill locations.

The Municipality supports intensification as a means of achieving an efficient use of land and infrastructure, curbing urban sprawl, and creating more walkable neighbourhoods, while also meeting the projected needs of the City. The City Centre area is expected to accommodate a range of intensification types, including mid to high rise buildings, infill, adaptive reuse and redevelopment and live-work buildings.

Arterial roadways and corridors will accommodate intensification similar to the City Centre, decreasing in intensity further from the City Centre. Intensification will also be encouraged in underutilized areas throughout the City.

Section 2.2.12 of City of Belleville Official Plan (2021)

More: Which government is responsible? Municipal vs Provincial vs Federal

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