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Ontario faces serious shortage of affordable housing: Tighter rental markets are driving up rents and keeping Ontario families in poverty

Toronto, Ontario, June 18, 2013 – Lower home ownership rates are poised to create additional pressure on already strained rental housing markets, says a new report released today.

The 2013 edition of Where’s home?, released by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) and the Co‑operative Housing Federation of Canada, Ontario Region (CHF Canada, Ontario Region), highlights the increased pressure that households unable to purchase a home will place on rental housing markets. According to the report, the rate of construction of purpose-built rental housing collapsed to a 60-year low in the mid-1990s and has not recovered. The rental housing market will now face further strain, with demand anticipated to increase by an additional 15,000 to 20,000 rental units per year.

A growing crisis

“These factors will make Ontario’s current affordable housing crisis worse,” says Sharad Kerur, Executive Director, ONPHA. “Growing competition for limited rental units will drive up rents, making it even harder for low and moderate income Ontarians to afford a roof overhead.”

Where’s home? highlights the challenges facing many low income Ontarians. The boom in household income between 1996 and the 2008-10 recession was not spread evenly and left the poor and moderate income Ontarians even further behind. From 2002 to 2009, it became even harder for low income Ontarians to afford safe, adequate housing.

More low income Ontarians face housing struggles

According to the report, 20 per cent of Ontario households pay more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, or live in homes that are too small or in need of repair. They also live in these circumstances much longer than Canadians in other provinces.

“The choices that Ontarians are making to afford their housing will have lasting impacts on our province,” says Harvey Cooper, Manager of Government Relations at CHF-Canada, Ontario Region. “Those choices impact our competitiveness and the prosperity of our province, drive up health care costs, and lower the returns on investment we’ve made in health and ducation.”

Government support needed to create more dedicated affordable rental housing

To afford housing that’s the right size and in good repair, the average low income Ontario household needs an additional $290 per month (up from $240 per month in 2002). “An investment of $3,500 to $4,000 per year would translate into big savings for the provincial and federal governments,” says Kerur. “It’s an investment in the future of Ontario that makes sense.”

Despite unprecedented residential construction activity since 1996, the construction of purpose-built rental housing during the same period has been minimal. The majority of new purpose-built rental housing has been in niche, higher-end markets. Investor-owned condominiums are another source of new rental housing. These units, and the households living in them are vulnerable to trends in the resale condominium market and these homes are particularly unsuitable for families. Recent federal and provincial government programs have added about 1,500 affordable rental units per year since 2003.

“Swelling demand for rental housing on top of the more than 156,000 households on social housing waiting lists means that the provincial and federal governments can no longer depend on the private market to build new, affordable rental housing,” says Cooper. “Ontario lost 86,000 rental units between 1996 and 2006. All Ontarians need robust, dedicated programs that will enable the non-profit, co‑operative, and private markets to build the homes that our province needs for its economy to grow.”

CHF Canada’s Ontario Region represents and serves over 500 housing co‑ops in the province, home to some 125,000 Ontarians. Co‑operative housing has a solid track record of over four decades of building and providing safe, secure, affordable housing in member-owned communities.

For more than 20 years, the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) has been the voice of non-profit housing in Ontario. Our 770 member organizations operate more than 163,000 non‐profit housing units in over 220 communities in Ontario. They provide affordable homes to a diverse range of tenants, including: seniors; low‐income families with children; Aboriginal people; the working poor; victims of violence and abuse; people living with developmental disabilities, mental illness, addictions and HIV/AIDS; and the formerly homeless/hard‐to‐house.

For more information:

CHF Canada Ontario Region’s Harvey Cooper: (416) 809-5048 (cell) or (416) 366-1711 ext. 237

ONPHA’s Sharad Kerur: 416-723-2835 or (416) 927-9144 ext. 102