On November 23, the 2021 Peterborough Draft Budget was approved by City Council and will be moving forward for voting on December 14. Although housing was found the number one priority during community consultations, the Social Service Division has granted 25.39%, or $21.63 million, of the total budget composed of $85.2 million to the Housing and Homelessness sector. The budget shows a slight reduction from last year’s approved budget with a difference of 1.8% or $386,121. The sector’s services are funded by the Province, with the balanced cost shared between the City (covering 44.9%) and the County (covering 55.1% of the cost). Homelessness programs on the other hand, are funded by enhanced municipal contributions and through the provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).
With an accelerating housing crisis, the issue of housing and homelessness has been granted the second largest financing under the Social Service budget, behind Ontario Works (OW) Mandatory Benefits with 38.51% or $32.81 million of the total budget. The OW Administration covers the cost of social assistance, provides support to staffing and includes programs to prepare clients for referral to locally-based employment services. These benefits are paid to OW’s clients if they meet eligibility requirements. Benefits include shelter, basic and nutritional allowance, temporary care, diabetic and surgical supplies as well as medical transportation, all which are funded entirely by the Province.
It is clear that as the pandemic continues to hold its grip, economic instability and vulnerability have become increasingly pronounced. The ongoing gentrification and building of luxurious condos, rather than social and affordable housing, has impacted low-income populations the most by severely marginalizing and displacing them. The lack of affordable renting spaces has had long-term impacts on Peterborough's residents, its development and its culture. This is because as rents become more expensive, it deprives vulnerable residents and business owners of finding shelter and opportunities of growth in their communities. The inability to access feasible rents has been a pressing issue that continues to widen the gap between progress and stagnation. This has triggered an increase in the need of Federal government support. The need for affordable and social housing has thus forced several adjustments within the Housing and Homelessness services, undergoing significant reductions in some areas while promoting increase in others.
As the Housing and Homelessness sector’s work primarily targets the extinguishing of chronic homelessness and building housing, a significant portion of its designated budget is being used to pay for Social Housing Subsidies. Additionally the Social Service Division will continue addressing faults embedded in existing systems including the areas of affordable housing, childcare and emergency shelters, while also creating and supporting new initiatives. Though funding for the Housing and Homelessness was reduced overall, the greatest budget increase within the sector has been in the area of homelessness specifically, with an 8.0% increase in comparison to last year’s approved budget - an addition of $355,940.
In July 2020, the council approved the review of a 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan that seeks to end long-term homelessness and ensure quality affordable housing for all residents by 2025. The plan will be focusing adjustments such as ensuring access to Social Housing by using a wait list management strategies, as well as collaborative planning, administration and program compliance of 16 independent non-profit providers, the Peterborough Housing Corporation and homelessness programs. Other goals include a portfolio of approximately 2,000 social housing units in both the City and County.
In regard to emergency shelters, as its usage remains high due to growing vulnerabilities experienced by individuals in part due to ongoing COVID-19 related pressures, additional funding has been conceded in order to support growing demands of shelter service availability.
Rent supplements, a short-term income support that works as a key factor to assist and support low-income households and individual residents to retain housing, has received an increase of 2.3% . Funded with provincial and municipal funds, rent supplements are included in both Housing and Homelessness programs. Housing rent supplements have been granted $2.7 million, while Homelessness Rent Supplements have only been granted 0.2 million.
Several of the sector’s services have nonetheless experienced a decrease in their funding. The most prominent reduction being in Housing Access Peterborough (HAP) with a -49.6% or $73,345 decrease in its designated budget for 2021. Other reductions can be found in the Special Program Funding of Ontario’s Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) with a variance of -34.8% or $650,244 and in the budget provided to Non Profit and Native Housing Providers with a reduction of 2.1% or $150,000.
The Housing Resource Centre, the Peterborough Housing Corporation and Delivering Opportunities for Ontario Renters (DOOR) Special Program funding have remained the same.
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