Here's What's Happening With Affordable Housing in Oakville, Burlington, and Milton

It’s no secret the cost of living is atrocious and many people in Oakville, Burlington, and Milton --and the GTA in general--are in desperate need of affordable housing.

Delivering new, affordable and assisted housing opportunities "is one of Regional Council's strategic priorities,” said Halton Region spokesperson Stacey Hunter.

The Comprehensive Housing Strategy, a 10-year plan to addressing housing and homelessness “is our strategic roadmap guiding our success in creating more housing opportunities in Halton.”

Between 2008 and the end of 2017, the Region will have created at least 1,540 new assisted housing opportunities across Halton Region and growing, she said.

But how many residents currently require affordable housing?

The wait for government assisted housing in Halton Region, “like in other communities across Ontario, can often take a number of years,” Hunter said.

Wait times for government assisted housing are determined by the number of properties and communities selected by applicants.

Provincial legislation doesn’t mandate a minimum number of properties and communities to be selected at the time of application.

As a result there are a number of applicants for Halton Region's Access to Community Housing (HATCH) waitlist that have only selected one property,” said Hunter.

In these circumstances, their wait time for housing is often considerably longer than applicants that select numerous properties and communities.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, there were 1,525 Halton residents who have applied for assisted housing in Halton Region through HATCH.

This represents less than 50 per cent of the total HATCH waitlist - the majority of HATCH applicants are from communities outside of Halton Region but want to move into Halton Region, according to Hunter, who adds the HATCH waitlist is not a robust measure of housing need.

There are a number of households on the waitlist that are currently already in government assisted housing but have requested a move to another government subsidized building,” she said. Also, provincial legislation allows applicants for government assisted housing to apply to the waitlists of numerous municipalities concurrently.”

Despite population growth-related demand for government assisted housing in Halton Region, “the waitlist in Halton Region is generally lower” than in surrounding Greater Toronto Area (GTA) municipalities, Hunter said.

Affordable housing is housing made available in Halton Region at an affordable level without any direct government subsidy.

While there is no data readily available on the volume of affordable housing in the Region, the Average Market Rents, as set by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) annually, “perhaps best illustrate the average market rent in each of the four local municipalities,” said Hunter.


GIVE US AN EXAMPLE

As an example, one-bedroom units are in most demand in Halton Region. The average market rent across the Region for this unit size is indicated below, as is the weighted average for all unit sizes.

Unit type: One-bedroom

Burlington

Average cost: $1,162
Weighted average: $1,264


Oakville

Average cost: $1,214

Weighted average: $1,378


Milton/Halton Hills

Average cost:$1,016

Weighted average: $1,121


Halton-wide

Average cost:$1,160

Weighted average: $1,284


Unfortunately, market conditions drive up this average market rent and with a current vacancy rate in Halton of around 1.1 per cent [as of Dec. 2017], Halton rents are pushed well beyond the Average Market Rent threshold resulting in a reduction of affordable housing throughout the Region,” said Hunter.

Rents in Halton are higher than in surrounding GTA municipalities.

What action is being taken by the Region?

Halton Region makes “significant and ongoing investments to support the housing needs of residents in our community,” said Hunter, noting “we are actively increasing the number of housing opportunities available to Halton residents beyond the traditional bricks and mortar approach, in order to address the housing needs of Halton residents.”

Halton Region, using a combination of Regional and senior government funding is implementing what it calls “innovative approaches” to increase housing opportunities in Halton.

The Halton In-situ Program offers a portable housing allowance to residents on the assisted housing wait list.

This program is beneficial because it helps residents pay their monthly rental costs where they currently reside, providing them with the support they need and keeping them in the communities where they live,” said Hunter.

Partnerships with private sector landlords across the Region have also been forged to create affordable housing options, according to the Region.

Halton flows funding directly to these landlords, who in turn make their rental units more affordable for low-income Halton individuals and families.

We have also been acquiring condominium units across the Region to add to our government assisted housing stock,” said Hunter.

These units are being offered to eligible Halton residents on the assisted housing wait list. This builds strong communities through social and economic integration.”

The Region also recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga to create 18 new townhomes in Burlington (made available at 65% of Area Market Rent) to house low-income Halton families from the Halton Access to Community Housing assisted housing waitlist.


How many subsidized rental units are currently in Halton?

Halton Region has oversight of more than 5,072 assisted housing units in Halton, of which 1,989 are directly operated by the Halton Community Housing Corporation.

For units that are specifically rent geared to income and below market rent - meaning residents are required to pay 30 per cent of their income toward rent or the rent is below 80 per cent of the average market rent for the area - here’s a breakdown of units by municipality:

Rent Geared to Income and Below-Market Rent Units:

Oakville - 1,759

Acton - 107

Burlington - 830

Georgetown - 191

Milton - 225

Total: 3,112

The 5,072 figure includes condominiums purchased by Halton Region, Halton in-situ program units, and private market rent supplement units where landlords are directly funded by Halton Region in exchange for affordable rents for vulnerable populations.


THE WAITING GAME

The wait for government assisted housing in Halton Region, “like in other communities across Ontario, can often take a number of years,” said Hunter. “Wait times for housing are determined by the number of properties and communities selected by applicants.

Provincial legislation doesn’t mandate a minimum number of properties and communities to be selected at the time of application.

As a result, there are a number of applicants for Halton Region's Access to Community Housing (HATCH) waitlist that have only selected one property.

In these circumstances, their wait time for housing is often considerably longer than applicants that choose more properties and communities,” said Hunter.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, there were 1,525 Halton residents that have applied for assisted housing in Halton Region through HATCH. This represents less than 50 per cent of the total HATCH waitlist - the majority of HATCH applicants are from communities outside of Halton Region, said Hunter.

Halton applicants on the HATCH waitlist come from the following municipalities:

Milton - 214
Halton Hills - 136
Burlington - 588
Oakville ­- 587

“The HATCH waitlist is not a robust measure of housing need,” said Hunter.

In Halton, as in other jurisdictions, there are a number of households on the waitlist that are currently already in government-assisted housing but have requested a move to another government subsidized building. Also, provincial legislation allows applicants for government assisted housing to apply to the waitlists of numerous municipalities concurrently.”

Despite population growth-related demand for government assisted housing in Halton Region, the waitlist in Halton Region is generally lower that in surrounding Greater Toronto Area (GTA) municipalities, she said.


FUNDING

Halton Region provides programs across the full housing continuum (from homelessness shelters through to private market incentives) in an effort to increase the number of government assisted and affordable housing opportunities for residents of Halton. The Region creates assisted housing opportunities for residents by acquiring new rental units through construction or rehabilitation. “n most cases, Regional subsidies are provided to make rental costs more affordable,” said Hunter.

The Comprehensive Housing Strategy Update reflects current Regional housing priorities and includes a sizable financial plan.

Halton is not able to do it alone,” said Hunter. “Ongoing, sustainable funding from senior levels of government is required.”

Halton's housing program has expanded based on continued sizable funding contributions from Halton Region as well as from recent increased funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Halton Region is working closely with the provincial and federal governments to ensure that Halton Region benefits from renewed senior government investments, be they through the provincial Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy or the federal government's recently announced National Housing Strategy,” said Hunter.

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