TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 15, 2016) - Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change (COP-COC) welcomed the announcement by the government of Ontario that it is updating its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy so that it is equitable, inclusive, evidence-informed, flexible and people-centred.

As part of the government's Budget 2016 investment of $178 million over three years into the provincial housing system, Ontario has committed to introducing a suite of legislative and policy measures to ensure that housing is affordable, suitable and adequate -- in support of the province's goal of ending chronic homelessness within 10 years, among other priority objectives.

Among the welcome measures:

  • Pending legislation for Inclusionary Zoning, which would allow municipalities to mandate that affordable housing units be provided within new development projects;
  • Developing an Indigenous Housing Strategy in partnership with Indigenous organizations and communities to address the unique housing challenges and needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples;
  • Investing $2.5 million over three years to create an Innovation, Evidence and Capacity Building Fund to support research, evaluation and capacity building initiatives;
  • Investing $92 million from the Green Investment Fund into social housing retrofits;
  • Creating a framework for a portable housing benefit that would give people who receive housing assistance the flexibility to choose where they want to live (and investing $17 million over three years in a pilot project for up to 3,000 survivors of domestic violence);
  • Investing $100 million over three years for new supportive housing for up to 4,000 families and individuals, and construction of up to 1,500 new supportive housing units; and
  • Investing a further $45 million over three years into the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).

While COP-COC welcomes the announcement and acknowledges the good faith efforts to address chronic problems with housing and homelessness, as we see no clear commitment to disaggregated socio-demographic data collection going forward, we call on the government to fully implement all recommendations of the October 2015 Report of the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness.

"It's necessary to improve data collection with respect to ethno-racial identity, (dis)ability, age, sexuality, gender identity, immigration status and so on in order to lead to a better understanding of community homelessness trends over time, and to provide a greater evidence base for decision making, for policy development, for program delivery, for future target setting and for reporting on progress for those groups among the most seriously and adversely impacted," said Vince Wong, staff lawyer of Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, a steering committee member of COP-COC.

Having a clear understanding and appreciation of the colour-coded (First Peoples and peoples of colour) and other experiences of disproportionate disadvantage in housing and homelessness is critical to the development of outcomes focused performance measures that improve the ability to measure progress in meeting peoples' needs.

"The Expert Advisory Panel report explicitly acknowledges that homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are not felt by all Ontarians equally and that among others both First Peoples and peoples of colour are disproportionally affected," said Grace Edward Galabuzi, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. "In fact, two of the 12 themes recommended by the Expert Panel -- specifically that race plays a role in homelessness and that cultural sensitivity and awareness are needed -- have not been mentioned in this new update," added Galabuzi.

"In particular, we need more government action to address hidden homelessness, an issue that affects even more racialized group members. The lack of recognition for homelessness in racialized communities has led to the chronic under funding of services for these communities," said Deepa Mattoo, Staff Lawyer of South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change recognizes that the Update is also part of the government's plan to build Ontario up -- to grow the economy and create jobs by making the largest investment in housing and other public infrastructure in Ontario's history.

As the Government works to build a low-carbon economy and invest in talent and skills, it should be taking best advantage of the opportunity to also address the upstream barriers and other realities faced by the above equity seeking and historically disadvantaged groups and communities across the province -- by attaching Community Benefit Agreements expectations to these future affordable housing investments, including appropriate employment equity provisions, when they negotiate contracts with housing developers and other partners. The Government should situate these equity measures of part of a key piece of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario.

Contact Information:

Deepa Matto
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
(416) 487-6371 ex.43

Vince Wong
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
(416) 971-9674

Amy Casipullai
OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
(416) 524-4950