Tag Archives: Affordable Housing

King for a Day?

RHBS 182The Ontario government is conducting a Basic Income Pilot project in three locations; Thunder Bay, Lindsay and Hamilton. The pilot provides a basic income of $17,000 to approx. 34,000 people that currently receive money from the Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Programs (ODSP). The $17,000 is a huge increase to those now receiving $13,000 or less from the government, but it is a paltry amount for most Ontarians.  You have to consider for whom a basic income is directed at and you’ll understand the need for more for this segment of Ontario’s population.

Using the example of a single male on ODSP and it’s shocking what some people in Ontario are forced to live on. After rent is automatically deducted from the ODSP, it leaves less than $500 for hydro, phone/internet, food, transit fees and other items for the rest of the month. Could you pay hydro, and other bills with only $500 a month and eat well? It was not always like this, our social assistance system was friendlier and more generous. Multiple governments have reduced programs and allowances available and not increased payments to meet increased costs for expenses. At one point ODSP included a number of allowances including moving allowances but with those gone the cost of a move eats further into the leftovers and leaves no chance to for people to improve their living conditions.

There are approximately 900,000 Ontarians receiving assistance through ODSP and other Social Assistance Programs representing just 6.5% of Ontario’s population. In the recent Ontario budget the Wynne Government allocated money to allow increase limits for those on ODSP etc. to earn more with less being clawed back. The governments’ focus on support payments is on families and children that because of a job loss saw these families fall well below the poverty line and reliant on the government. For many this doesn’t provide any comfort, they don’t have the assets to claim against assistance and have little opportunity to make more money, so they fall further behind month by month. For many they will rely on food banks and the generosity of friends providing $20, $40 or more when needed. Many don’t ask because they don’t want to be a burden, so they suffer invisibly. It’s sad to see people we know go moneyless up to half way through a month, because what’s left after rent doesn’t see them through to the first week of the month.

What makes me angry is while the Ontario government seems to be focused on families/children on ODSP and OW their attention does not reach the singles who struggle just as much each month. Long-time progressives in the Wynne government like former Ottawa Vanier MPP Madeline Meillieur and current Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi seem to have blinders when assisting those without dependents. Baby steps by the government may help families, the singles, as they get older, fall further and further behind and will become a larger burden on the government because they have no pension; savings support avenues available to them.

General consensus with budgeting states that 30% to 35% of a person’s annual income should go to housing costs, and that includes hydro. Even if we up the 35% to 50% a single person on ODSP with annual rent of $9000, the annual income that should be received is $18,000. In reality, rent accounts for 68% of ODSP for the single person and if you add average hydro of $70/month that increases to a whopping 75% of annual income going to housing and hydro. Someone please tell me how anyone lives on 25% of an annual income? At this point, I hope that the Ontario PC’s or Ontario NDP understand the plight of the few in Ontario (I’ve given up hope Wynne and Ontario Liberals will ever understand this).

A solution is to change how ODSP is fixed to recipients. Rather than have a fixed amount of money received each month, the amount paid should be a fixed percentage of how much housing costs should be. If the government were to fix housing costs to 40% of the annual income,  the ODSP recipient would see an increase of their payments to $17,100. The result? While rent increases happen annually, so too will ODSP to meet the most important monthly cost that is taken out of the month government cheque. Without this, the motivation to move to a better location is destroyed as increased rent results in decreased spending for all other living expenses.

I realize that this gets very close to the government sponsored basic monthly income pilot – what separates it from that program though is the ability to change housing due to any number of reasons; accessibility, declining living conditions, and safety. Rent increases will not affect what might be left after rent is paid. The basic income does not do this. I propose to look after the number one need of those of assistance, housing, and the remainder will be less stressful on the first of each month, or as a friend calls it “King for a Day”.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

 

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The Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness 2

December 2011 I posted “the Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness”, since then, over 5 years, there have been 500+ clicks to see the post. Five plus years later, it is time for an update. In those five years the conversation has shifted, it has moved from talking about ending homelessness to having available affordable housing, in essence the conversation could now be the “Collective Benefits of Affordable Housing”.

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Back in 2011 I wrote about the then Federal Conservative Government plans to reduce homelessness by finding and funding places for people to get off the streets and under a roof. Was it the right approach? Where does the search to end homelessness begin? Is this is a chicken or the egg situation? What is the right beginning, to create new housing to move people to a house from a room or fund shelter spaces to move people off the street? Whatever the solution, it helps the circle of movement move faster and more efficiently (one hopes).

Since the 2012 report from the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) there has been an increase in the number of people accessing homeless spaces. The 2016 report (http://endhomelessnessottawa.ca/resources/2016-progress-report-on-ending-homelessness/) shows that 7170 individuals used a shelter of some sort, not since 2012 have over 7000 people sought a shelter for the night. There is some indication that the federal plan of 2011 has had a positive impact as numbers dropped to 6508 in 2014, but that number has been slowly creeping back up to the numbers released recently by the ATEH.

Why isn’t the needle moving in a positive direction on this? What is hold us back?

With a 10 year commitment from the City of Ottawa to reduce homelessness in its 4th year, there remains a concern that the needs are not being met – and that the reasons for it are changing. Affordability is becoming more and more the reason for not having a permanent home. Youth are couch surfing and families are moving into smaller homes as the cost of rent and everyday needs (like hydro) increase without solid solutions to reduce or stabilize the cost of staying in a home. In 2012 it was estimated that 1000 new housing units were needed annually in Ottawa to meet, reduce and eliminate homelessness. In five years the City of Ottawa has created just under 1300. Based what the ATEH estimated, the Ottawa is 3700 units behind its needs.

It is clear to me each new government has its own ideas for solutions to ending homeless and in 2017 we see affordability becoming a huge issue as the cost to purchase a home rises annually. The Liberals in Ottawa announced $11B over 11 years as part of National housing strategy, but that money is being spread over several initiatives – the $11B sounds like an incredible figure and it is. But on an annual basis the figures do not seem as impressive. As an example, the $3.2B in the Renewed Federal-Provincial-territorial Partnership for seniors housing over 11 years is less than $300M each year.

The $11B is a good first step nationally, but for the 10,000+ on the Ottawa housing wait list it will take years to build those roofs and walls and eventually end homelessness in Ottawa and other communities across Canada. What needs to be addressed is how governments can help the unknown those families, youth and individuals who are not on wait list, we don’t know where they are today or where they will be tonight.

I have hopes that by distributing the $11B through the CMHC it will be a much more effective and efficient flow of funding rather than previously when the money flowed through three different government hands before it got to the providers and builders of affordable housing. One positive out of the 2017 budget is that it should reduce the reporting structure for how the money used while this funding is available over 11 years.

2017 and 2018 will see several Municipal and Provincial elections held, for the social and affordable housing sectors these will be important to hold governments to account for a lack of progress and to ensure incoming governments and councils will take actions that will see less use of shelters as more rooms, apartments and houses for youth, seniors and families will be ready with doors wide open for them.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.