Taking action — narrative elements for each Ontario-delivered initiative
The Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI), Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI), and Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) are delivered within Ontario’s broader system planning framework under the Community Housing Renewal Strategy (CHRS).
Under this framework, Ontario sets the overall vision and establishes the legislative and policy framework for housing and homelessness initiatives in the Housing Services Act, 2011, while SMs and IPAs identify the needs of vulnerable populations in their communities, develop local housing and homelessness plans to address those needs, and deliver services to people.
Ontario is working together with our delivery partners to achieve targets and outcomes that are focused on meeting the housing needs of vulnerable Ontario families and individuals. This includes ensuring that tenants in existing social housing units are protected, that the stock of existing social housing is preserved as a public asset. These outcomes and expected results are set out in the tables below.
Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI)
COCHI maintains Ontario’s social housing supply, including Urban Native Housing units, and over time will expand the supply of rent-assisted units. The initiative helps to protect tenants living in projects with expiring operating agreements/mortgages and promotes the long-term sustainability of non-profit and co-operative housing providers.
The focus of the funding under this program continues to be on protecting tenants and the preservation of social housing supply. Funding also targets social housing providers that can demonstrate their potential for long-term sustainability. For providers whose original obligations have expired or mortgages have matured, funding will only be accessible if they remain in the community housing system. Funding priorities for the second Action Plan period are:
- protecting rent-geared-to-income tenants in non-profit and co-operative housing projects with expiring operating agreements/mortgages through an ongoing rent-geared-to-income rent, where the provider continues to receive an operating subsidy or enters into a rent supplement agreement (a rent supplement is a subsidy paid to the landlord on behalf of a household in need of rental assistance)
- assisting community housing providers with expiring operating agreements/mortgages to remain viable and continue to provide community housing. This can take the form of one or more of the following:
- a time-limited transitional operating subsidy agreement associated with achieving housing provider financial independence and sustainability
- access to repair funding to support ongoing financial independence and sustainability
- a rent supplement agreement for a set number of rental units
- maintaining the number of Urban Native Housing units through repair, capital replacement, household affordability support and/or operating subsidies to achieve provider sustainability.
- supporting effective transitions for non-profit, co-operative and municipally-owned community housing into a future operating framework for community housing
Under the COCHI, social housing tenants are protected in two ways:
- Improvements to the physical structure of community housing buildings through repairs and renovations, result in better living conditions for the low-income and vulnerable tenants who live there. Improvements to core building systems, such as heating and cooling, also reduce the operating costs for community housing and increase the amount of funding that can be put towards protecting tenancies and preserving supply. Extending the physical life of the stock could enable more low-income and vulnerable tenants to live in community housing. Investments in community housing improvements will be protected through COCHI’s requirement that funded community housing providers continue to offer affordable housing for 10 years following the completion of a retrofit, instead of turning these units into market housing.
- Providing ongoing financial assistance to rent-geared-to-income tenants in community housing projects with expiring operating agreements/mortgages ensures that in-situ households are not adversely affected once original obligations to provide subsidized housing end.
Addressing the housing needs of Indigenous Ontarians is also a priority. Ensuring that the number of Urban Native Housing units is maintained, and that the retained units are repaired to good condition, will benefit the vulnerable populations that live there. Tenants will benefit from better living conditions and extended life of the stock.
Funding under this initiative can be used to help providers address sustainability issues such as:
- streamlining internal operations to improve efficiencies
- amalgamating smaller provider corporations to improve operating efficiencies or foster economies of scale
- coordinating procurement opportunities among a number of providers.
- asset management planning services, such as building condition surveys and technical assessments of significant repairs that must be made within identified timelines
Under both the COCHI and OPHI programs, funds that lead to the preservation of affordable and social housing will help to maintain existing housing in areas that are often already accessible to services, employment opportunities and transit. Service Managers can use funding under both initiatives to increase the supply of community housing, which addresses local needs and priorities that are consistent with local housing and homelessness plans. This supports the creation of more liveable and inclusive communities.
Repairs to social housing under this initiative will also provide employment through local companies in municipalities across Ontario. Local employment benefits will continue into the future as the installed building systems, such as heating and cooling, would need local companies to provide ongoing maintenance.
Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI)
OPHI continues to provide flexible funding to address local housing priorities and improve access to affordable housing options. The initiative will help to increase affordable housing supply, increase housing affordability and improve the state of repair of the affordable and social housing stock. Eligible funding activities include:
- increasing community housing supply (for example, construction of housing or conversion to housing)
- preserving affordable and community housing, which can include repair, renovation or adaptation of housing
- providing affordability support such as housing allowances, rent supplements and home- owner down payment assistance
- providing support services to affordable and social housing tenants
Service managers and Indigenous program administrators have the flexibility to determine which program components they participate in, based on local needs and priorities.
SMs and IPAs are required to prioritize funding to address the housing needs of the identified vulnerable populations. Up to 20% of cost-matching funding can also be used to provide support services to affordable and social housing tenants, such as financial literacy and accessing social supports. IPAs also deliver an Off-Reserve Indigenous Housing component which provides funding for new affordable rental housing, construction, home repair and homeownership assistance targeted specifically to Indigenous households.
A key objective of OPHI is to incorporate energy efficiency into new affordable housing units and building design. Through the program guidelines, SMs are encouraged to prioritize projects that include the use of energy efficient features. Ontario also encourages the use of energy-saving products and systems for repairs in affordable and social housing through the program guidelines.
Under the Rental Housing component, recommended projects are expected to maximize achievable reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that either meet or exceed the current National Energy Code and Ontario Building Code requirements.
Under the Ontario Renovates component, eligible activities include repairs and rehabilitation required to bring a home/unit to an acceptable standard while improving energy efficiency.
An objective of the Ontario Renovates component is to foster independent living of seniors and persons with disabilities by providing financial assistance to support modifications and renovations to increase accessibility of affordable rental and ownership properties. The Home Repair sub-component includes assistance for low and moderate-income homeowner households to increase accessibility of their home through modifications and adaptations. The Multi-Unit Rehabilitation sub-component includes assistance for landlords of eligible rental buildings and community housing providers to rehabilitate units that require essential repairs and/or modify units to increase accessibility.
SMs and IPAs are required to prioritize and track community employment benefits for large rental projects. SMs/IPAs are also encouraged to give priority consideration to projects that provide community employment benefits, including work contracts for small and medium-sized businesses and job creation for apprentices, Indigenous Peoples, women in construction, veterans and newcomers to Canada.
Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB)
COHB increases affordability of rental housing in Ontario by providing portable housing benefits directly to households in need that are on, or eligible to be on, a social housing waiting list and to households in financial need living in community housing.
Priority for COHB is given to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, persons experiencing or at risk of homelessness, Indigenous persons, seniors, persons with disabilities, and households that will no longer receive housing assistance as a result of expiring social housing operating agreements/mortgages and/or federal/provincial programs.
To lessen the impacts of inflation, the COHB is based on a partial-gap model, which means the COHB amount is calculated as the difference between a percentage of average market rent in the applicant’s community, (and not tied to the actual rent paid by the household) and 30% of the household’s monthly net income. The benefit calculation also assumes a minimum contribution towards rent by the household. Ontario works with CMHC to monitor and mitigate potential inflationary effects.
Ontario has established a toolbox of housing and homelessness initiatives that SMs can use to address the unique housing needs of survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking This includes the Special Priority Policy, set out in Ontario Regulation 367/11 of the Housing Services Act, 2011, which provides priority access to rent-geared-to-income social housing. Once a household qualifies for the Special Priority Policy and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance, they must be placed at the top of their SM social housing waiting list above all other applicants.
The COHB also prioritizes and supports survivors of domestic violence and of human trafficking and provides them with the flexibility to choose where they want to live. Other vulnerable populations are also given priority for the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit, including persons experiencing or at risk of homelessness, Indigenous persons, seniors, and persons with disabilities.
Under the COHB affordability assistance is tied to the household, not to a physical housing unit. This allows the benefit to support households where they currently reside and to move with the household to any area in Ontario. As a result, recipients have more flexibility to choose where they live so they can be closer to family, social support networks, schools and employment opportunities. This gives SMs the opportunity to create more vibrant, mixed-income communities when they can diversify their housing options.