July 2023

Summary of Policy

Shelter is defined as the cost for a dwelling place used as a principal residence. Allowable shelter costs for a principal residence include rent, principal and interest on a mortgage or loan, occupancy costs paid under an agreement to purchase, taxes, utilities, heat, water, sewage and insurance premiums for the dwelling place or its contents.

Legislative Authority

Section 11 of the ODSP Act
Sections 28 (1), 31, 41(1), 43(1) and 44(1)10 of the ODSP Regulation

Summary of Directive

  • The shelter allowance is subject to a maximum amount based on the size of the benefit unit.
  • An annual adjustment tied to inflation will be applied to the maximum shelter allowances each July.
  • Where utilities, heat, water, sewage, and insurance are not included in the rent/mortgage, the actual cost of these items for members of the benefit unit must be verified and can be included in the shelter allowance subject to the maximum amount.
  • Mandatory cable costs directly related to building security can be included in the shelter allowance subject to the maximum amount.
  • Mandatory charges for normal rental accommodation services such as garbage disposal and laundry facilities can be included in the shelter allowance subject to the maximum amount.
  • If heating costs on their own exceed the maximum amount payable for shelter, the amount payable will be the actual cost of heating.
  • The amount of assistance provided for shelter is reduced when accommodation is shared with someone other than a dependant.
  • Shelter costs can be approved for a second residence on a temporary basis as long as the person meets specific disability related criteria.

Intent of Policy

To provide assistance for shelter costs up to the maximum amounts allowable.

Application of Policy


The maximum amount of assistance that can be provided for shelter is based on family size as set out in the table below. Related shelter costs such as heating and utilities can be included in the shelter calculation if verified as separate from the amount charged for rent. Directives 9.3 Heating Costs and 9.5 Utilities provide more information related to these additional shelter costs. An annual adjustment tied to inflation for the maximum shelter allowances in the table below will be applied each July.

Benefit Unit SizeMaximum Monthly
Shelter Allowance
6 or more$1,149

Upon request, or at the time of update, shelter costs are reassessed for the period under review to ensure the correct amount of assistance was provided. If the verified amount was too low, and the recipient was not receiving the maximum shelter amount, arrears can be provided up to the maximum amount allowable in the shelter table. If the average monthly amount input was too high, an overpayment will be established and recovery will commence.

Other shelter costs related to the principal residence may include the following subject to the maximum shelter amount:

  • Rent. The rental agreement is reviewed to assess what is included in the rent and to determine which costs can be included in the shelter calculation. Costs for mandatory cable related to building security can be included in the shelter calculation as well as mandatory cable or telephone costs, subject to the shelter maximum. In addition, mandatory costs related to normal rental accommodation services such as garbage disposal and laundry facilities can be included. However, where costs are not mandatory or not necessary for the preservation, maintenance and use of the dwelling place, they cannot be included in the shelter calculation. Costs related to parking, even if the costs are mandatory, cannot be included in the shelter calculation.
  • Principal and interest on a mortgage or loan. Principal and interest can be included in the shelter calculation. Property taxes can also be included if they are part of the mortgage or loan payment. The mortgage agreement should be reviewed to identify what is included in the payment amount. In cases where a recipient has a Manulife One account mortgage, the mortgage sub account should be reviewed to verify payments.
  • Property Taxes. If not included in a mortgage or loan payment, can be included in the shelter calculation.
  • Occupancy costs paid under an agreement to purchase. This cost can be included in the shelter calculation.
  • Insurance premiums for the dwelling place and its contents. The cost of fire insurance and content insurance can be included in the shelter calculation. The cost for a heating insurance plan that covers maintenance / replacement of a furnace can also be included.
  • Second Residence. Where a second residence is required temporarily to enable the applicant/recipient or spouse to participate in a training program to enhance employment prospects, an amount can be provided that is the lesser of:
    • the cost to maintain the principal residence, and
    • $455.
      • This amount is in addition to the shelter allowance payable for the principal residence. The applicant/recipient or spouse must be either a person with a disability, in receipt of disability benefits under the Canada Pension Program or Quebec Pension Plan, grandparented from Family Benefits as Blind/Disabled, Dependent Father, or Permanently Unemployable or eligible for services, supports and funding under the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 (SIPDDA)
  • Co-operative Housing. The co-operative may charge common expenses to cover items such as building maintenance, snow removal and garbage collection or other items. These amounts can be included in the shelter calculation.
  • Condominiums. Condominium corporations usually levy a monthly fee for common expenses for the use and upkeep of property and often include costs for grounds keeping, snow removal, garbage collection, utilities, and energy for heat. Generally the mandatory condominium fees for common expenses are included in the rent/mortgage amount. Where common expenses are not included in the rent/mortgage they can be added as a shelter related cost up to the maximum shelter allowance.

Note: Allowable shelter costs cannot be increased where a recipient has obtained a home equity loan or line of credit for the purposes of consolidating debt. Only principle or interest on a mortgage or loan that is incurred to purchase the dwelling place or to make necessary repairs can be included as a shelter cost.

Reduced Income Support due to Shelter Conditions

  • No Shelter Costs. People with no shelter costs do not receive a shelter allowance.
  • Joint Ownership. The amount of shelter allowance paid in joint ownership situations is as follows:
    • Pay half shelter (up to the shelter maximum) - Where a principal residence is jointly owned and both owners are living in the home, both owners are equally responsible for the shelter costs (50/50).
    • Pay full shelter (up to the shelter maximum) - Where a principal residence is jointly owned between an ODSP recipient (resident) and a non- ODSP recipient (non-resident) allow full shelter costs to the ODSP recipient residing in the home alone.
  • Shared Accommodation. When a recipient lives with roommates, the shelter allowance will reflect his/her actual share of the total shelter costs, up to the maximum allowable amount for his/her benefit unit. For example, if a single ODSP recipient lives in an apartment with a roommate and pays $300 of the total monthly shelter cost of $500, the recipient would be issued $300 in shelter allowance (the portion he/she actually pays). Recipients are required to provide documentation of the total shelter costs and their share (e.g. rent receipt, a signed agreement between all roommates, etc.).
  • Rent Abatements. The Landlord and Tenant Board may order an abatement of rent under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, when a landlord has acted wrongfully. For example, the landlord may not have provided required repairs, illegally entered the premise, changed locks without providing a key, withheld a vital service, interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the premise, harassed the tenant, or withheld consent to sublet the premise. An abatement order is meant to relieve the tenant of an obligation to pay some or all of the rent. The abatement order may apply until a repair is completed, or to a previous period of time resulting in the landlord owing the tenant money. When an abatement is received, income support is recalculated for the time period covering the abatement order, using the corrected rental amount in the shelter calculation.
  • Compensation Orders. The Landlord and Tenant Board may order that a landlord pay a specified amount of money to the tenant as compensation for costs incurred by the tenant or costs the tenant will incur as a result of a landlord’s breach of obligation. A compensation order of this nature is not to be considered income.
  • Mortgage Disability Insurance. The payments made by the insurance company to the mortgage holder for the applicant’s home are exempt as income. However, the mortgage payments are not a cost to the applicant and should not be included in the shelter calculation.
  • Failure to Pay Accommodation Costs. In a situation where a recipient does not use the income support amount provided for shelter toward their accommodation costs, an overpayment is not established. Rather, pay direct or trusteeship may be options to investigate to ensure the recipient retains their lodgings. (See Directives 10.1 Pay Direct, 10.2 Trustees and 11.1 Recovery of Overpayments).

Sponsored Immigrants living with their sponsors and eligible for shelter costs

If an applicant/recipient is living with a defaulting sponsor (or in a place owned or controlled by the sponsor) and the sponsorship agreement is still in effect, shelter costs can only be paid if:

  • the sponsor is in receipt of Ontario Works, ODSP, the Guaranteed Income Supplement under the Old Age Security Act or Gains-A;
  • there is a breakdown in the sponsorship relationship due to family violence and/or abuse;
  • the sponsored immigrant:
    • has a legal obligation to pay shelter costs (e.g. the sponsored immigrant is a lessee or named as a co-owner on a deed/mortgage), or
    • satisfies the Director that he/she will not be allowed to remain in the current residence unless he or she pays shelter costs.

Any actual support that the sponsored immigrant receives from the sponsor will be treated as income and deducted from the sponsored immigrant's income support.

Sponsored Immigrants living with their sponsors and not eligible for shelter costs

Where the sponsored immigrant is living with his/her sponsor and is not eligible for shelter costs, a sponsorship deduction will be applied.

The sponsorship deduction is the greater of:

  • the amount the sponsor is paying to the applicant/recipient, and
  • the amount of income support that would otherwise be calculated under section 30 of the ODSP Regulation less the applicable basic needs amount.

Example - A single recipient who is living with his/her sponsor, not eligible for shelter costs, and not receiving any funds from the sponsor will have their income support calculated in the following manner:

Amount single recipient receives under Reg. s. 30 - $1,308
Less amount calculated under ODSP Reg. s. 40 - $556
Total income support $752

Shelter Arrears

Under ODSP , the shelter allowance is intended to be used to pay for actual monthly shelter costs. As such, the shelter allowance is not to be used for the payment of arrears that are related to rent, utilities or heating.

Recipients with shelter arrears should be instructed to contact their respective Housing Service Manager for information on housing-related services that may be provided under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).

If supports are not available through the CHPI, then payment of arrears related to shelter may be covered as a discretionary benefit under Ontario Works where approved by the Administrator.

Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit

The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) is a portable housing allowance program for eligible low-income households to help them with their housing costs.

Housing Service Managers will identify households who may be eligible and assist with the application, while the Ministry of Finance will confirm eligibility and issue payments directly to households. Assistance will be portable across the province, and may be provided to a third party (e.g. paid directly to the landlord) where both parties consent.

For ODSP applicants/recipients, COHB should not be deducted when assessing actual shelter costs to help them access adequate and affordable housing.

Individuals may also receive assistance for rental deposits (e.g. first and last month’s rent) through the COHB program.

All payments under the COHB program are exempt as income for the purposes of social assistance.

Federal “Reaching Home” Program

Reaching Home is the Government of Canada’s program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to Designated Communities (urban centers), Indigenous communities, territorial communities and rural and remote communities across Canada.

Canada provides funding directly to Community Entities—which may include provincial housing and homelessness Service Managers (i.e. Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards), Indigenous organizations, or other community-based service delivery partners—through several program streams. More detailed information about funding streams, and eligible activities is available at Government of Canada’s Reaching Home Program.

Payments under the Reaching Home program are to be treated in the following manner:

  • housing allowances/rent supplements are exempt up to the amount that actual rent exceeds the maximum payable for shelter under social assistance.
  • Other housing/homelessness-related payments or supports provided under Reaching Home that would be exempt as income if provided by a housing and homelessness Service Manager under the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) (e.g., rent deposits, rent/utility arrears), are exempt, even though they are not being provided under CHPI or by a housing service manager.

    See Directive 5.1: Definition and treatment of Income for types of payments exempt under CHPI and Reaching Home.

Exempt Credits on Electricity Bills

The value of grants, payments, credits, services or items provided by Ontario utilities and regulators, municipalities, and the Governments of Ontario or Canada, for the purposes of energy efficiency, conservation or affordability, are exempt as income for social assistance purposes. The value of such payments or benefits should not reduce the amount of shelter allowance otherwise payable to the benefit unit. See 9.5 Utilities for how to calculate utility costs.

Treatment of Payments Under the Transplant Patient Expense Reimbursement (TPER) Program

The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care’s TPER program provides up-front payments or reimbursement of temporary accommodation costs incurred by eligible patients while awaiting heart, heart-lung and lung transplants, up to a maximum of $1,500 per month.

TPER payments are exempt as income for the purposes of social assistance if used for the intended purpose within a reasonable period of time as determined by the Director.

MOHLTC-funded Rent Supplement for Permanent Supportive Rental Housing

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) funded rent supplement aims to provide permanent supportive rental housing to persons with a mental illness who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The program is also available to other client groups as determined by MOHLTC such as people with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system or those with a physical disability.

Where an applicant/recipient is in receipt of the MOHLTC-funded rent supplement payment, the portion of the payment that exceeds the maximum social assistance shelter allowance is exempt as income up to the actual shelter costs.

Investment in Affordable Housing - Ontario Renovates

Under the Ontario Renovates program, Housing Service Managers may provide funding to eligible low and moderate income households for renovations and modifications. Ontario Renovates payments are exempt as income and assets for the purposes of social assistance.

Related Directives

Other related sites

Landlord and Tenant Board