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Ontario’s housing co-ops say provincial budget lacks promised balanced approach to cutting deficit

Toronto, Ontario March 27, 2012 – Ontario’s housing co‑ops are concerned that the “strong action” announced in today’s provincial budget will make it much harder for their low-income members to make ends meet. Of particular concern is the decision to freeze social assistance rates, which means an effective cut in income for those who can least afford it.

Barb Millsap, President of the Co‑op Housing Federation of Canada’s Ontario Region, said that co‑op members understand the government had to take decisive action to bring down the deficit but had hoped that, as part of its poverty reduction strategy, it would find a way to protect the most vulnerable. “The government promised a balanced approach to fighting the deficit but then chose to rely almost exclusively on cutting government spending and services rather than looking for ways to increase revenues as well,” said Millsap.“Targeted and limited tax increases could have been used to lessen the impact of the overall cuts on the poorest households.”

The budget is completely silent on affordable housing and the growing waiting lists for social housing across the province. “Maybe that’s not a bad thing under the circumstances,” said Millsap. ”It seems that the Canada-Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) program announced last November has survived the cuts.” The IAH program provides $481 million in federal-provincial funds over a four-year period for a range of affordable housing initiatives. “Affordable housing construction has a proven track record in stimulating the economy and this program, modest as it is, will make a valuable contribution to the economic recovery,” Millsap noted.

Millsap pointed out that the IAH program runs out in 2014 and called on the Province to make it a priority to reach agreement with the federal government on a long-term strategy and funding commitment for affordable housing. “We hope that by 2014, the economic recovery will be well underway and senior levels of government will be in a position to make a renewed commitment to building more co‑op and non-profit housing and reducing housing need,” Millsap said.

CHF Canada’s Ontario Region represents and serves over 500 housing co‑ops in the province home to some 125,000 co‑op members. 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 information:

Harvey Cooper, Manager of Government Relations

416-366-1711, ext. 237 or 416-809-5048 (cell)