Toronto Star Editorial – Buck-passing on housing

EDITORIAL

Buck-passing on housing

Apr 13, 2008 04:30 AM
In the wake of a brief and unsuccessful federal-provincial housing meeting earlier this month, Ontario Housing Minister Jim Watson warned, “There’s going to be virtually no new affordable housing because we can’t afford to do it on our own.”

But Ontario as much as the federal government has failed to meet its affordable housing commitments. Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government was elected in 2003 on a “strong communities” platform that promised significant new provincial dollars to match the federal dollars available to build 20,000 new affordable homes, 7,000 supportive homes and provide 35,000 housing allowances.

In his re-election campaign last year, McGuinty promised to develop an affordable housing strategy. But so far, his government has offered little but excuses for inaction. The latest report card from the Wellesley Institute on Health and Well-being found a $1 billion gap between what Ontario has promised to spend on affordable housing since 2001 and what it has delivered.

Every other province has made at least modest gains in spending in this area. And while this year’s Ontario budget calls for a slight increase in the budget of the ministry of municipal affairs and housing, it is still below the level of two years ago. The only new money in this year’s budget for affordable housing was $100 million to repair the existing social housing stock, and that is far short of the estimated requirement of up to $1.3 billion. Toronto’s renovation bill alone is an estimated $300 million.

Yes, Ottawa should commit to developing an affordable housing strategy in conjunction with the provinces. But the absence of a federal plan ought not to be an excuse for Ontario to abandon the field.