The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for May, 2004
CHRA Sounds the Alarm as Social Housing Operating Agreements Start to Expire
Social housing operating agreements are starting to expire. When they expire, many housing providers may not have the funding to provide as many rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units as they do right now.
The operating agreements are different for different housing projects. But in general they provide a subsidy to help housing providers pay the mortgage on their buildings and provide RGI units.
Over the next 30 years, the operating agreements for about 593,000 federally funded and cost-shared units and more than 90,000 provincially funded, non-profit, public and co-op units in Canada are set to expire. These agreements will expire as the mortgages on the buildings are paid off.
The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) in partnership with the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) have developed spreadsheets to assist providers to assess how the change will affect the viability of their low-income housing stock. Providers simply plug in their numbers for a general idea about how they will fare.
Judy Forrest, chair of the CHRA’s National Steering Committeee on the Expiry of Social Housing Operating Agreements, says that, very generally, the consultants hired to study the issue found that if a housing provider’s mortgage payments are less than the subsidy they receive, the provider won’t have the money to subsidize the same number of RGI units.
On the other hand, this represents an enormous opportunity for the affordable housing sector. As agreements expire between now and 2040, the federal government will save about $32.1 billion and the provincial and territorial governments will save about $28 billion. This is money that could potentially be re-invested in the affordable housing sector.
“We are trying to get this issue on the table and get people talking about it to say there is this money being freed up. We think that some of it, if not all of it should be kept in housing either for rent supplements, if necessary, or for new affordable housing programs,” said Forrest.
In Ottawa, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation turns 30 this year and has been using the spreadsheets because its operating agreements are set to expire soon. Executive Co-ordinator Catherine Boucher, says that, so far, it looks like her organization will be able to maintain the current number of RGI units once its federal operating agreements expire-- mainly because buildings with higher RGI percentages will be carried by those with lower percentages of RGI units.
But, her organization has yet to test the viability of its provincially funded buildings. Boucher said she suspects these buildings will be much less viable because they have a higher percentage of RGI units.
She points out that while organizations like hers mix RGI units with units that rent at higher market rates, public social housing projects have 100 per cent RGI units so there is no way these organizations will be able to continue to provide their current level of low-income housing without government assistance.
“The point of doing this work right now is for providers to start looking at their own stock but also to make governments pay attention to the fact that this is not an issue for the distant future. This is on our doorstep now,” said Boucher. “Providers have to start using the spreadsheet, start showing their board and start talking to each other about what the next lobbying efforts have to be.”
For a copy of the spreadsheet and ‘How-to’ guide (available for both single-project and multi-project providers) visit
For ‘Research in Brief: Guaranteeing a Future’ which provides a quick overview of the issue visit:
Government Commissioned Report Recommends Phasing Out Rent Control in Quebec
A report, commissioned by the Quebec Liberal government to look at the rental market recommends phasing out rent control.
Groupe Roche, the private company that conducted the report held a round of consultations and invited Quebec’s Front d’Action Populaire en Reamenagement Urbain (FRAPRU) and two other tenant groups to participate. The groups boycotted the consultations to protest the fact the study was conducted by a private firm. They have been pushing for a full public debate on the issue.
FRAPRU spokesperson Lucie Porrier said she has been in contact with the Minister’s office to find out if the government is planning any legislative changes to rent control. She was told that if the government were to make changes to the legislation, it would have to do so this spring for landlords to get any benefit from rent increases.
Jean Philippe Guay, a political assistant in the Minister’s office, said that groups had until March 30th to give their comments and now those comments are being analyzed. He said it is too early to say whether there will be legislative changes as a result of the report’s recommendations because the information is still being assessed.
Porrier said advocates will mobilize at the first sign of any legislative change that creates rent increases for tenants.
Ontario Government Consults about the Tenant Protection Act
The Ontario government will be accepting submissions on reforming the rental system until June 15. The government is focusing its discussion on creating a better rental system for tenants and landlords and is looking both at what works and what doesn’t work with the current system.
The provincial government website has information about how to participate in this consultation. Town Hall meetings are being organized and there is an online questionnaire. The site also has a consultation paper, complete with an executive summary, which discusses the issues.
For more information visit www.mah.gov.on.ca. Follow the link ‘Building Strong Communities: Rent Reform.’
CHRA on Board to Call for a National Affordable Housing Energy Efficiency Strategy
At its annual meeting April 3rd, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) passed a resolution to support the Green Communities Association in its call for a national affordable housing energy efficiency strategy.
The government currently funds an incentive program that rebates homeowners, on average, $1,000 to retrofit their homes to conserve energy. The retrofits can reduce energy bills by 35 per cent per year. This level of efficiency saves four times the one-tonne challenge’ issued by Ottawa to engage private citizens in its Kyoto commitment to cut down emissions caused by energy consumption.
This program does not yet include the affordable housing sector, even though low-income and social housing are among the worst energy wasters.
For more information on the potential of such a program visit http:// www.housingagain.web.net. Scroll down to the ‘Housing Again Bulletin’ box and click the “Visit Bulletin Archive’ link. See the second story in Bulletin # 69.
Cathy Crowe Reports on the Disorganization, Interruptions and Rejected Requests at Toronto’s TB Inquest
Housing issues have been ‘scarcely heard’ at Toronto’s tuberculosis inquest, according to street nurse Cathy Crowe. Furthermore, the inquest has been plagued by delays and interruptions. This has led Crowe to speak out publicly about what she sees as a flawed process.
The inquest is looking into one of three deaths of homeless men during a 2001 tuberculosis outbreak among homeless people.
“In my view,” Crowe, wrote in a Toronto weekly newspaper, “the jury at this inquest hasn't been allowed to hear enough evidence to make meaningful recommendations.”