Introduction to the Ontario Housing Services Act


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Recorded on April 26, 2012 - Ontario's new Housing Services Act 2011 came into effect on January 1, 2012. This webinar provides an overview of the key elements service providers working with low income tenants should know about.
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  • Oversight = stewardship = “getting out of the way of local descision-making”
  • The Province did not keep its promise to limit reporting requirements for changes in income or household composition to once a year. We have been advised that the Province will hold consultations to develop new RGI calculation rules. It’s is uncertain whether these rules will include the Government’s “Once-a-Year” promise. It’s also unlikely that we will have new rules before the Act comes into force on January 1, 2012.
  • Applicants still have to be 16 years-old, able to live independently and have lawful status in Canada. If applicants owe money to another social housing provider, they should include evidence of an agreement to repay the amount in their new application.
  • Some asset changes include the exclusion of all RESP funds, but the inclusion of pain and suffering awards. Under the SHRA , ineligibility was mandatory following a social housing-related conviction. The 90-day annual absence from the unit is a new rule.
  • This is a big disappointment. The Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy promised to limit a household’s duty to report a change in income or household composition to once a year, “allowing them to use the extra money to improve their standard of living, rather than have it clawed back on the rent.” (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Building Foundations: Building Futures – Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2010), at 7). Questions over how annual income is to be determined (i.e., what line to use in a T1 income tax return) and the potential fiscal impact on municipalities are being considered as the Province tries to develop new RGI rules.
  • Under the SHRA , a household’s rank on the centralized waiting list was determined by when the household applied for RGI assistance. Under the HSA , the length of time a household has spent on the waiting list is only one factor that a service manager must consider before selecting a household to receive RGI. Households may identify which housing projects they prefer. As suitable units become available in a particular housing project, a household on the waiting list will be given an offer to occupy the unit based on their preferences.
  • Another disappointing item. We had hoped for an independent, three-person panel to hear viva voce appeals of social housing-related decisions.
  • The Province is developing new rules to calculate RGI assistance. However, it is unlikely that the Province will re-visit the reporting requirements for changes in income. This is a clear and obvious broken promise. Clinics and ACTO have an important role in holding a mirror to the Province and reminding Ontarians of this broken promise.
  • I think it’s important to use these opportunities judiciously: nobody likes the kid who cries “Wolf”, or who runs to mommy and daddy over every issue.
  • Introduction to the Ontario Housing Services Act

    1. 1. This webinar is brought to you by Your Legal Rights: a website of legal information for people in Ontario. Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.
    2. 2. Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. About our presenter… Harry Cho was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2002 after completing his articles at the Northumberland Community Legal Centre in Cobourg. Since then, he has worked exclusively in Ontario's legal clinic system. Harry earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Queen’s University, and a Master of Laws Degree from the University of Toronto. Harry joined the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) in October 2010.
    3. 3. The content of this webinar is based on law or policy that was current on the date the webinar was recorded. Your Legal Rights webinars contain general legal information. They are not intended to be used as legal advice for a specific legal problem. For more information on how to find a lawyer or to contact your local community legal clinic visit: Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. Please Note:
    4. 4. The Housing Services Act, 2011 and Regulations Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario April 26, 2012
    5. 5. 5 Introduction  The Housing Services Act, 2011 (“HSA”) came into force on January 1, 2012.  The HSA replaces the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000 as the Province’s social housing and rent-geared-to-income legislation.  Important Regulations include:  O. Reg. 367/11 (General)  O. Reg. 298/01 (Transition RGI calculation provisions)  O. Reg. 370/11 (High Needs Households and Household Income Limits – s.40(4) of the Act)
    6. 6. 6 Purpose of the HSA  To provide for community-based planning and delivery of housing and homelessness services with general provincial oversight and policy direction, and  to provide flexibility for service managers and housing providers while retaining requirements with respect to housing programs that predate this Act and housing projects that are subject to those programs.
    7. 7. 7 Rent-Geared-to-Income: Overview  Except for a few minor changes, RGI rules remain the same as under the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000.  According to the Ministry, rules for calculating RGI will be developed. Currently, Part VII of O. Reg. 298/01 applies as a transitional rule.  Service Managers are still required to place households on centralized waiting lists for RGI assistance.
    8. 8. 8 Basic Eligibility for RGI Assistance  At least one member of the household must be 16 years or older and able to live independently; and  Must be a Canadian citizen, or have made an application for permanent resident status, or have made a claim for refugee protection.
    9. 9. 9 Criteria for Ineligibility  Removal order has become enforceable.  Amounts owed by household for arrears or damages from a previous social housing provider.
    10. 10. 10 Cessation of Eligibility  Failure to meet initial eligibility criteria.  Failure to notify of changes.  Failure to provide information.  Paying market rent for 12 consecutive months.  Failure to obtain income.  Failure to divest residential property.  Local rule – household exceeds local maximum income.
    11. 11. 11 Special Priority Housing – Eligibility Criteria  a member of the household has been abused by another individual;  the abusing individual is or was living with the abused member or is sponsoring the abused member as an immigrant; and  the abused member intends to live permanently apart from the abusing individual.
    12. 12. 12 If the Applicant Doesn’t Live With the Abuser  The Applicant must meet one of three conditions:  The request to be included in the special priority household category was made within three months after the abused member and the abusing individual ceased to live together;  The service manager is satisfied that the abuse is ongoing at the time the request to be included in the special priority household category was made; or  The service manager determines that it is appropriate to include the household in the special priority household category despite the request to be included not being made within the time limit.
    13. 13. 13 Applying for Special Priority Housing  The request must be in writing.  The request must be made by a member of the household who is 16 years old or older.  The request must include a written consent to the disclosure to the service manager of information and documents required by the service manager to verify there is/has been abuse.  A Service Manager shall accept a record of the abuse from a prescribed list of sources as conclusive proof of the abuse.
    14. 14. 14 Special Needs Housing  Eligibility - At least one member of the household must require accessibility modifications or provincially funded support services in order to live independently in the community.  Cessation of Eligiblity - Household does not become ineligible unless all household members who required accessibility modifications have permanently recovered from the condition that necessitated the provision of those services.
    15. 15. 15 Some Changes to RGI Eligibility  Households continue to have an asset exemption level of at least $20,000, but there are changes to what is excluded.  Service managers may set a rule that a household that has been convicted of RGI-related offences is ineligible for RGI assistance for up to two years from the time of conviction, (mandatory ineligibility under the SHRA).  Service managers may set a rule that a household becomes ineligible for RGI assistance if absent from the subsidized unit for at least 60 consecutive days, or at least 90 days in a year.
    16. 16. 16 Changes to RGI (cont’d.)  Service managers may set a rule that a household is ineligible for RGI assistance if over-housed for at least one year after being notified they are over-housed.  Service managers may not establish a local eligibility rule that treats households receiving RGI differently based on the length of time they have been receiving RGI.  Service managers may set a rule that a household becomes ineligible for RGI assistance if the household fails to report a change in income or household composition within a minimum of 30 days.
    17. 17. 17 Changes to RGI (cont’d.)  Local rules may allow subsidized tenants from different service manager regions to “swap” subsidized tenancies.  Service managers are given some flexibility over the system of selecting households from the waiting list, which may take into consideration the household’s preference for certain housing projects (no longer based on length of time spent on the waiting list).
    18. 18. 18 Notices of Social Housing Decisions  A notice of a decision, including reasons, must be served on a household within seven business days after the decision is made.  If the decision can be reviewed, the notice must include a statement that the household may request a review of the decision, and information about the review process and deadline.  Tenants no longer have an opportunity to comment on information a service manager or housing provider receives from a third party.
    19. 19. 19 RGI Appeals/Reviews  Service managers must establish an appeals system regarding decisions related to RGI administration.  The system must include the following:  Reviewer must not have participated in the making of the decision;  Reviewer must be knowledgeable of the relevant provisions of the HSA and Regs.  Reviewers must not have discussed the decision under appeal with the person who made the decision.
    20. 20. 20 Questions? Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
    21. 21. 21 Issues to Monitor  Matters related to RGI assistance have not been simplified.  The 30-day reporting period for a change in household income or composition is not what the Government of Ontario promised.  Tenants do not have a right to an oral hearing by an impartial panel for social housing appeals.
    22. 22. 22 But…  The Province has promised to hold consultations as it develops new rules for calculating RGI.  Housing advocates should use these consultations as an opportunity to remind the government of its promises under the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, including simplifying income reporting requirements.
    23. 23. 23 Local Housing & Homelessness Plans  Service managers are required to develop local housing and homelessness plans that include:  an assessment of current and future housing needs;  objectives and targets relating to housing needs;  a description of the measures proposed to meet the objectives and targets;  a description of how progress will be measured; and  such other matters as may be prescribed.  Plans must be in place by January 1, 2014.
    24. 24. 24 Opportunities for Advocacy  Local Housing and Homelessness Plans  Service managers are required to consult with their local communities when developing their plans. Housing advocates are ideally situated to offer advice on local housing and homelessness issues and to organize community participation in the consultations.
    25. 25. 25 Opportunities (cont’d.)  Ministerial Consent Required to Sell Housing Assets  In the City of Toronto, for example, the Mayor, City Council and the municipal social housing provider’s board of directors have adopted resolutions to sell housing assets. Advocacy and community groups have a role in making the Minister aware of the importance of preserving social housing in their communities.
    26. 26. 26 Opportunities (cont’d.)  The Centralized Waiting List  Because households are no longer selected based exclusively on length of time spent on a local waiting list, tenant representatives will be able to advocate on behalf of a household to expedite placement with a housing provider.
    27. 27. 27 Opportunities (cont’d.)  Social Housing Appeals Stakeholders can advocate for oral hearings before an independent panel to determine social housing appeals.
    28. 28. 28 Opportunities (cont’d.)  Other Local Rules  Service managers have expanded authority to set rules regarding household asset levels, absences, et cetera.  Housing advocates can use this opportunity to advocate for liberal rules.  But this requires ongoing monitoring of local government and participation in developing these rules.
    29. 29. 29 Conclusion  The primary goal of the HSA appears to be continued devolution of responsibility for social housing to local municipalities.  The HSA provides greater flexibility to service managers, including the method of selecting households from the waiting list. The exercise of such discretion should be closely monitored.  The focus on local patterns of housing need and homelessness gives housing advocates an opportunity to participate in developing local plans and local rules.  Legal clinics may also contribute to upcoming consultations on developing new RGI rules.
    30. 30. 30 Questions? Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
    31. 31. This webinar was brought to you by Your Legal Rights: A website of legal information for people in Ontario For more information visit Your Legal Rights at For more public legal information webinars visit: