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article imageOttawa to end rent subsidies for low-income residents

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2013 in Lifestyle
Many low-income Canadians could be facing the prospect of becoming homeless in the next two years, that is, unless the government steps in and pays attention to the Provinces and Territories request to work with them in maintaining social housing funding.
CBC News Canada is reporting that over 200,00 low-income families living in co-op and non-profit housing projects may soon be looking elsewhere for affordable housing. And in Canada, as in the U.S., there just isn't any affordable housing, especially for those people 65 and over, living on a pension.
In Ottawa, low-income residents living in affordable housing depend on federal rent-geared-to-income housing assistance to pay their rent. There is fear right now that the existing co-op housing will vanish when the $1.7 billion a year government funding level is gone. This will coincide with the expiration of the long-term operating agreements between Ottawa and affordable housing operators.
Some homes have already been lost, and in Ottawa's Sandy Hill co-op housing development, residents can expect federal subsidies to end in February 2015. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says they expect a $23.3 million decrease in funding for 2013-2014, as the agreements expire.
In the early 1990s, social housing funding agreements were signed between the Canadian government and the non-profit housing providers. The funds covered mortgage payments and the difference between rents and a households income and operating expenses. It was thought that when the agreements ended, rents would cover the operating expenses and any capital expenses. Trouble is, this has not been the case.
These agreements have been expiring all across Canada, and the government has given no indication it will be willing to work in getting the agreements renewed. The housing organizations can expect to lose $3.5 billion annually from the federal and provincial governments as the agreements expire.
NDP MP Mike Sullivan told the House of Commons earlier this month, “The federal contribution to affordable housing was $3.6 billion in 2010. It has fallen to about $2 billion today, and it will fall further, to $1.8 billion by 2016. This is a 52 percent cut over six years, at a time when the need for affordable housing continues to increase.”
Conservative MP Brad Butt, a social housing advocate and the man who helped to convince the government to increase funding for homeless programs in the last budget in March, insists the Tories are not cutting funding to the affordable housing projects. Butt says that the mortgages on many of the social housing properties have been paid off, so the government has fulfilled its commitments.
MP Butt went on to explain that many of the housing units will have actually had the mortgages paid off by the time the agreements expire, needing no further subsidies. This means that rents should be able to go on as they have been, and the buildings should continue to operate as they had been operating in the past.
Butt further explained that the federal government is looking at a "cost-shared rent supplement program," where the government and the provinces would continue to provide funding, while the provinces and territories would administer it. To be sure, the government needs to be clearer in letting people know what it is planning to do, and sooner, rather than later.
More about Ottawa, Rent, Subsidies, lowincome, Coop
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