Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Input on Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update

Input on Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update

Dear Mr. Lowes,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing updates Ontario's Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.

Refining the Vision: Housing is a Human Right and a Key Determinant of Health

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. As our members practice in all roles and sectors across the province, we have come to a visceral as well as cognitive understanding of this issue that informs our advocacy. Access to safe, affordable housing is a fundamental human right and a key determinant of health.

The April 2015 updated vision for the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy is articulated as "every person has an affordable, suitable, and adequate home to provide the foundation to secure employment, raise a family, and build strong communities." While affordable housing does enable significant economic, reproductive, and social benefits, a more inclusive vision would be that every Ontarian, including those who are not able to work or not attached to a family, deserves a home. Consistent with RNAO's 2009 submission on the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, RNAO supports the Ontario Human Rights Commission's recommendation "that the Affordable Housing Strategy recognize Ontario's obligations in regards to the right to adequate housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."

A Sustainable Supply of Affordable Housing

What the consultation guide describes as a "demand for social and affordable housing exceed[ing] supply," the RNAO and many other parts of civil society would identify as a crisis. In January 2015, this crisis was made visible by three individuals without homes who died respectively of hypothermia in a van, a bus shelter, and by fire in a make-shift shelter during a cold snap in Toronto. Less evident perhaps are the 168,711 households on the waiting lists in Ontario for rent-geared-to-income housing as of December 31, 2014. The average wait for a household that joined the waiting list in 2014 is five years for housing but some may wait as long as thirteen years depending on the area. Despite the commitment of over $4 billion by the province in funding for affordable housing since 2003, the waiting lists increased in Ontario by over 40,000 in the same time frame.

Ontarians need all three levels of government to work together, including substantive investments from federal, provincial, and municipal partners, to repair deteriorating housing stock as well as build new social housing. As an example, about 36 per cent of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) is currently in poor or critical condition. Without investments to repair these homes, it is predicted that 91 per cent of TCH's residential portfolio will be in poor, critical, or closed condition by 2023. Every $10 spent on housing and supports for chronically homeless individuals results in a $21.72 savings related to health care, social and housing supports, and involvement with the justice system. Investing in housing is the right thing to do for human rights, health, public policy, and economic stimulus reasons. To address sharp declines in overall federal housing investments, RNAO advocates that the federal government increase spending by $2 billion annually for affordable and social housing programs and related services. The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has calculated that a provincial commitment of $1.3 billion per year, over ten years, (roughly one per cent of the Province's annual budget) would be required to assist all households living in Persistent Core Housing Need, homelessness, and to repair social housing stock. In order to improve access to affordable housing and stimulate job creation, RNAO recommends that the province invest one per cent of Ontario's budget to create new affordable housing stock and address the backlog of existing affordable housing units in need of repair.

A System Based on Evidence and Best Practices

There is growing international and Canadian evidence that improving health and health equity requires integrated governance across government sectors to enable intersectoral collaboration and action on complex public policies. As Ontario marks the second anniversary of Realizing Our Potential: Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014-2019), there are ongoing opportunities to strengthen this approach with a detailed implementation plan, complete with targets, timelines, and substantive public investments. Integrated governance approaches are critical to addressing poverty, including the stated long-term goal of ending homelessness in Ontario by "addressing the root of the problem." This involves a wide range of approaches including action on the intersections of mental health, equity, and social determinants of health, including housing; addressing precarious employment; increasing dangerously low social assistance rates that impact access to housing and food security; and impacts of colonization, historical trauma, and racism. RNAO stands ready to work together with governments and communities on these system issues as well as being a content resource through our Best Practice Guidelines linked with supporting individuals and families, such as the new Engaging Clients Who Use Substances.

Please do not hesitate to be in touch with us if further information would be helpful to inform Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.

Warm regards,

Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO

c. Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

See the full submission with references below.

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RNAO Input on Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update254.47 Ko
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Letter