Updated: NDP slams ‘sneaky cut’ to Ontario homelessness spending after ‘misleading’ Whitby announcement

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Published March 8, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Homeless man
(Stock image)

Update: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has refuted the NDP’s funding numbers and claims of a “sneaky cut” to homelessness spending as, “just wrong.” A full story on the Government’s response will follow. 

Hot on the heels of the Ontario’s newly announced Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) opposition critics decried the move as a “sneaky cut” to homelessness supports, arguing the funding for HPP is less than what was earmarked for homelessness relief in the last budget.

The NDP released a statement from Jessica Bell, the NDP Housing Critic, a few hours after Whitby MPP Lorne Coe, and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced the HPP in Whitby.

Bell cried foul on the Ford government’s insistence that the $25 million dollars set to go into HPP represented an increase in funding to housing initiatives. “The Ford government is claiming a $25 million boost in these areas when it’s actually quietly slashing more than a quarter of a billion dollars.”

The HPP consolidates three existing homelessness prevention programs: the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, Home for Good and the Strong Communities Rent Supplement Program. Clark and Coe also announced an increase in funding to the Indigenous Supportive Housing Program.

All together Ontario has earmarked $494 million to the HPP and the Indigenous Supportive Housing Program, which the NDP says is $268 million less than the $762 million dedicated to the four programs in the 2021-2022 provincial budget.

“It’s unconscionable for Doug Ford to cut funding dedicated to helping people find housing, and stay housed, when more Ontarians than ever are living on the streets,” said Rima Berns-McGown, Ontario NDP critic for Poverty and Homelessness.

“We are facing an unprecedented homelessness and housing crisis in Ontario after people lost income during the pandemic and the province refused to stop evictions,” she continued, “Ford is not only ignoring that crisis, but making it incalculably worse as people have been literally freezing to death and a disproportionate number of unhoused people receive completely insufficient ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program] payments.”

The last ODSP payment increase was in 2018, when payments increased 1.5 per cent. Currently, a single ODSP recipient can receive up to $1,169 per month to cover living expenses. Meanwhile inflation has soared to 5.1 per cent in Canada, and average rents for a one-bedroom apartment in Oshawa have increased 14 per cent over last year to $1,654 per month.

The NDP says the former Liberal Government used the same tactic in 2012 under Premier Dalton McGuinty, when they consolidated five programs into Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative with less funding than the previous programs.

“Just like the Liberals before them, the Conservatives are quietly cutting homelessness and housing initiatives, which will only make the housing affordability crisis worse,” said Bell.  “The Conservatives’ track record is defined by cuts to housing programs, skyrocketing home prices, and unaffordable rent.”

The NDP has proposed that if they form government in June they would “fix this” by taking steps like building “tens of thousands of affordable and supportive homes, barring rent hikes between tenants, and providing direct rent support to households that really need it.”

In their announcement March 8, Coe and Clark argued that consolidating the three previous programs into HPP would “streamline” the homelessness support system and allow administrators, such as Durham Region, greater flexibility in allocating funds.

While Regional homelessness programs, funded in part by Provincial endowments, have proven successful with high “outflow” from the service into housing, the by-name list the Region uses to identify those in need has remained at a steady number as more people continue to become homeless

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