What government is responsible for social housing in Ontario?

Avatar photo
| Published , updated April 6, 2024
  • Delivery: The administration and organization of social housing services is a local responsibility, primarily through municipalities. The 47 Service Managers 2 Indigenous Program Administrators provide some services directly, but transfer the majority of provincial funding to third parties to actually deliver/provide services and supports locally.
  • Funding: From 2014-15 to 2017-18, municipalities were the biggest financial contributors of community housing (54%), with support from the federal (35%) and provincial (11%) governments:

Community housing

GovernmentFunding percentage
Municipal54%
Federal35%
Provincial11%
Source

Supportive housing

GovernmentFunding percentage
Municipal0.5%
Federal0.5%
Provincial99%
Source

In 2018, municipalities funded 77% of social housing services, while provincial funds contributed 14% and federal 9%. The cost-sharing of these services blurs the lines of accountability and raises questions about local input and autonomy.

Federal government’s role

The federal government provides funding through a legacy Social Housing Agreement, with funding declining each year as original program arrangements come to an end.

Since 2017, the federal and provincial governments have partnered in a series of federal-provincial cost-sharing agreements as part of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) through the Act (progress reports here).

In April 2018, Ontario and the federal government signed a bilateral agreement, agreeing on how the two levels of government will work together – and with municipal governments – deliver federal investments in Ontario.

The federal government left the housing business in the 1990s

Canada’s spending on affordable housing dropped sharply in the mid-1990s with a shift in government policy. Source

Between 1973 to 1994, Canada built or acquired 16,000 non-profit or co-operative homes every year. Between 1994 and 2016, that number dropped to just 1,500 homes a year, thanks to a decision made by the federal Liberals to get out of funding affordable housing.

Jen St. Denis, The Tyee

Provincial government’s role

The province sets the policy direction for housing and homelessness in Ontario and provides the legislative authority for community housing. They are the primary funder of supportive housing and homelessness services.

Community housing

Also also known as social housing, community housing is owned and operated by non-profit housing corporations, housing co-operatives and municipal governments or district social services administration boards. These providers offer subsidized or low-end-of market rents.

Over 250,000 households live in community housing in Ontario. About 185,000 (74%) pay rent-geared-to-income (RGI), where the occupant pays 30% of their gross monthly income on rent and the rest is paid for (“topped up”) by the government in the form of a subsidy and the rest pay a moderate market rent.

Supportive housing

Programs that combine subsidized housing and support services such as counselling, life skills training, activities of daily living to enable people to live as independently as possible in the community. These include long-term care homes, retirement homes and home and community care. 

These programs are funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Municipalities’ role

As it stands, municipalities’ Service Managers are the lead partner in the planning, coordination and delivery of housing and homelessness services.

Municipalities are the primary funders of the cost of community (social) housing in Ontario, with support from the federal government (under the SHA) and the province.

There are 47 municipal Service Managers (municipalities and district social services administration boards) in Ontario that fund and administer this housing.

For example, Hastings Local Housing Corporation (HLHC) oversees the administration and provision of housing services for the City of Belleville, Quinte West (Trenton and Frankford Wards), Marmora, Tweed, Bancroft, Deseronto, Madoc, Stirling, Coe Hill, Tyendinaga and other neighbouring areas.

Municipalities across the province pay for different shares of social housing costs, without any direct tie to social or financial need, and with important impacts on some municipalities’ fiscal situation.

The City of Toronto spends $933 million, or $315 per person, on social housing. Of this total, the provincial government contributes just $333,250, or $0.11 per person – a share of just 0.04%.

Compare this to municipalities in the rest of the province, which together spend $1.9 billion on social housing, an average of $182 per person. In these municipalities, the Province contributes a total $405 million, or an average of $38 per person – a 21% share of all operating and capital costs.

Municipalities’ primary source of funding is property tax, which is a regressive tax, (income tax is progressive) and thus not as effective at funding redistributive services such as social housing, because it is less directly linked to the incomes of those being taxed (ie. a high-income person may live in a modest house that does not reflect their wealth).

Timeline

Existing social housing units were primarily developed through federal or provincial government programs from the 1950s through 1995.

April 1993 – In the last budget of the Mulroney Conservative government, the federal government announced the termination of all new funding for social housing (including renovation assistance), except on reserve.

1994 – The Chrétien Liberals did not turn the taps back on once they formed the new government in late-1993, even though they campaigned to reinstate social housing following its announced termination in the final Mulroney budget. They did follow through on a campaign promise to re-instate the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) at $100 million for 2 years. RRAP is politically attractive; it assists a lot of households with relatively low costs per household assisted, especially in comparison with building new social housing.

1998 – Ontario transferred a number of funding responsibilities including social housing to municipalities under the Local Services Realignment program. In return, the province assumed half the education costs that had previously been paid by municipalities.

1999 – the federal government transferred administration and financial responsibility for social housing to Ontario in the Canada-Ontario Social Housing Agreement (SHA), with the exception of federal housing co-operatives.

December 2000 – the Ontario government in turn transferred (“downloaded”) administration and financial responsibility to 47 municipal Service Managers in the Social Housing Reform Act, but kept responsibility for supportive housing.

Ontario is the only province to have passed on the responsibility for funding and administering social housing to municipalities.

2011 – the Ontario Housing Services Act made service managers responsible for administering and funding municipality-specific social housing and homelessness priorities and maintaining service level standards.

More: Timeline: A History of Social Housing in Ontario – ONPHA

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

Sources

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed prior to appearing on the site.

Rules:

  • Remember the human. No harassment, bullying, and threats of violence.
  • Be respectful. Provide constructive feedback on specific policies and actions.
  • Stay on topic. Relevance to the subject of the post or to the previous comment.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Do you follow municipal politics in your area?

Join us in our Discord server!