Dear Minister Milloy, Minister Chiarelli, and Minister Duncan,
I am writing to express grave concern that your 2012 Budget eliminates the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) and the Home Repairs Benefit (HRB) for people on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
The loss of CSUMB will have a considerable negative impact on people on OW and ODSP, the majority of whom are renters. Three aspects of this benefit make it essential for people on social assistance.
First, it is targeted to help people on assistance – who are among the most vulnerable in Ontario. Second, it provides people with the direct assistance they need to retain their housing and prevent homelessness – it can help them pay their rent or utility arrears or help them move to safer or more secure housing. And third, this benefit is mandatory – people that are denied are able to appeal the decision. This oversight ensures a measure of fairness for Ontarians with low-income and protects them from arbitrary decisions.
All three of these critical factors will be lost when CSUMB ends in January 2013 and new consolidated housing and homelessness funding comes into force.
As you know, 50% of CSUMB funds are slated to be combined with funding from five other housing and homelessness programs into the new consolidated fund. Municipalities will set their own local priorities for this fund, which will be spread over a larger pool of potential clients.
The accountability framework for this fund is yet to be created. Moreover, local Housing and Homelessness Plans are not required by the Ministry of Housing until January 2014. Moving 50% of the CSUMB funding to municipalities before they understand and plan responses to their local housing and homelessness issues is simply out-of-step with good policy and the timetable established by the government in its Housing Services Act. And, importantly, it remains unclear how moving CSUMB funds will impact First Nations.
The loss of HRB will have a negative impact on low-income Ontarians struggling to maintain and repair their own homes. While the Ontario Renovates program may be an alternative, it operates in municipalities primarily as a loan program, which people on social assistance will have great difficulty repaying. This cut is more likely to affect people on ODSP, and those in rural, northern and First Nations communities.