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Ontario risks $357M in housing funds without revised plan: feds

The Ontario government could lose $357 million in federal funding for affordable housing if the province does not resubmit its action plan to meet federal housing targets by the end of the day Friday, federal housing minister Sean Fraser said in a letter.  (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)
The Ontario government could lose $357 million in federal funding for affordable housing if the province does not resubmit its action plan to meet federal housing targets by the end of the day Friday, federal housing minister Sean Fraser said in a letter. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)

Ontario risks losing $357 million in federal funding for affordable housing if the provincial government does not submit a revised action plan to meet its federal housing targets by the end of the day Friday, the federal housing minister said.

In a letter addressed to Ontario Housing Minister Paul Calandra on Thursday, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser wrote that Ontario's draft action plan for 2022-2025 fails to meet commitments made to the federal government in 2018.

"Speaking frankly, the proposed Action Plan is a disappointment," Fraser wrote in the letter.

In response to Fraser, Calandra said that "it is unacceptable that you would choose to threaten our most vulnerable."

He told the minister that "withholding funding would simply be a punitive measure that will benefit no one."

'Ontario is lagging desperately behind': minister

The federal government signed the National Housing Strategy (NHS) Action Plan in 2018, a 10-year bilateral housing agreement for the delivery of over $5.8 billion in cost-shared investments in Ontario, the federal letter says.

Fraser wrote that the province's action plan fails to meet commitments of the agreement.

"Ontario is lagging desperately behind all other provinces and territories," he said.

In his response, Calandra said the economic landscape has shifted since the 2018 agreement, citing the rising costs of building materials, supply chain disruptions, gaps in the labour market and higher interest rates.

The provincial minister also wrote that Ontario's social housing stock is the oldest in the country and "in the greatest need of repair and renovation"

"By focusing on the repair backlog, Ontario has successfully staved off the risk to both affordability and availability of units for tens of thousands of families and overachieved on the NHS repairs target," Calandra wrote.

Ontario housing minister fires back

Calandra said the province has exceeded the overall nine-year repairs target by 170 per cent.

Ontario also has the highest share of households in core housing need compared to other provinces and territories of the country, he added.

While the federal NHS allocates funds according to population, Calandra wrote that Ontario's core housing need is at 44 per cent —  "well above our population share of 38.5 per cent."

Under the partnership, Ontario agreed to expand the number of new affordable housing units in the province by 19,660 and set annual targets through publicly available three-year action plans, the letter says.

The province also agreed to report on progress on both the annual and nine-year target, according to the letter.

The federal housing minister added that the lack of progress in the province "jeopardizes the completion of both Ontario's housing targets, and Canada's national target."