Advocates Set 5 Tests for long-awaited Ontario Affordable Housing Strategy

TORONTO, April 19 /CNW/ - The Ontario government's highly anticipated Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy must include 5 key measures for it be effective in reducing housing-related poverty, says a report released today by the Housing Network of Ontario (HNO).

"Low-income Ontarians and policy experts have outlined what the government needs to include in their strategy to adequately address Ontario's housing crisis," says Yutaka Dirks, co-Chair of HNO. "The Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy must include: sustained funding to build at least 10,000 affordable new homes annually and ensure maintenance of all public housing; a new Housing Benefit and support services to make housing truly affordable and accessible; changes to housing legislation; proper accountability; and clear ways to measure progress in the fight against housing-related poverty."

Building the Foundation for Ontario's Future: 5 Tests for Success of Ontario's Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, summarizes what thousands of low-income Ontarians and advocates expect of the government's promised Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, due to be released in June.

"Since 2003, the Ontario government has added some new affordable housing funding and programs, but it still doesn't have a coherent plan or even basic targets," says Michael Shapcott, Director, Affordable Housing and Social Innovation at the Wellesley Institute. "The patchwork approach means that affordable housing waiting lists are years long, 20% of tenants are paying over half their income on rent, and yet - as the Ontario Auditor-General noted in November - the province cannot properly account for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal affordable housing funding. Existing housing programs are not effectively targeting the households with the greatest needs."

"The high rents in Toronto make it very hard for me to afford a decent place to live as I deal with my health issues," says Cheryl Smith, of Voices from the Street. "A Strategy that provided a monthly Housing Benefit would help me to pay for food and other necessities and to find more adequate housing."

"The government can eliminate housing-related poverty, create equitable and thriving communities and strengthen Ontario's economy by investing in a long-term housing strategy that passes the Housing Network of Ontario's 5 Tests," says Dirks. "With communities still reeling from the recession, now is the time to commit to housing construction, renovation and support programs which will create jobs and provide secure, affordable housing."

As of 2009 there were 129,253 Ontario households on the waiting list for affordable housing with a wait list stretching from 5-20 years. Census data indicates that 1 in every 5 tenant household in Ontario pays over 50% of their income on rent.

The Housing Network of Ontario is a provincial network of affordable housing advocates with over 450 organizations and individuals who have endorsed the Housing Network of Ontario Declaration.

Media contact: Yutaka Dirks, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, (416) 597-5855 x.5243; Michael Shapcott, Wellesley Institute, (416) 605-8316 Regional and French spokespersons from across Ontario available for comment by contacting Yutaka Dirks. For more information about the HNO and the 5 Tests: www.stableandaffordable.com.

SOURCE Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Yutaka Dirks, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, (416) 597-5855 x.5243; Michael Shapcott, Wellesley Institute, (416) 605-8316; Regional and French spokespersons from across Ontario available for comment by contacting Yutaka Dirks. For more information about the HNO and the 5 Tests: www.stableandaffordable.com

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Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario

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