Housing benefit smart policy for Ontario's families

TORONTO, November 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The provincial commitment to a new Housing Benefit is a major step forward in addressing the economic pressures facing low-income Ontarians, says a diverse coalition of non-profit housing providers, private sector landlords, food banks and policy experts.

"We are very pleased that the government has made the important decision to explore an Ontario Housing Benefit," said Gail Nyberg, Executive Director of Daily Bread Food Bank. "The Housing Benefit is the next step in strengthening Ontario's income security system and improving housing affordability. We look forward to working with the government on the new benefit."

Released today, Ontario's Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy commits to exploring a new Ontario Housing Benefit. Unlike other provinces, the only permanent housing benefit provided in Ontario is paid exclusively to social assistance recipients. The working poor do not get any on-going help to cover the cost of their housing making the transition from social assistance to the labour market more difficult.

"A new Housing Benefit is an important tool in the strategy's toolbox that will provide affordable housing in Ontario," said Sharad Kerur, Executive Director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. "It can help to bridge the affordability gap between what housing costs and what people can afford."

A coalition of industry and community organizations has developed a detailed proposal to help low-income working age renters with high shelter-to-income burdens in communities across Ontario, particularly in the Ottawa and Greater Toronto Areas where rents are higher. In the proposal, the average benefit for unattached, low-income single adults would be $96 per month, and $119 per month for families.

"Now is the right time to take action on a Housing Benefit that balances Ontario's fiscal circumstances and the pressures facing low-income families. A carefully designed, fiscally prudent Benefit is smart policy to help low-income renters make ends meet," said Vince Brescia, President and CEO of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario.

A Housing Benefit was specifically referenced by the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council in its recent report as a next step in the modernization of income security programs in the province.

The Housing Benefit Working Group is a unique coalition that includes both private sector and front-line agencies that work with low-income communities on the ground, including: Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario; Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association; Greater Toronto Apartment Association; Daily Bread Food Bank; Ontario Campaign 2000; Metcalf Charitable Foundation; and Atkinson Charitable Foundation.