St. Catharines City Council asks provincial government to pledge funding for affordable housing

Photo by: Sandy Miller

The provincial government has asked St. Catharines City Council to commit to building 11,000 homes by 2031, which council has agreed to, but now has a request in return.

On Monday, March 20, council unanimously agreed to ask the province to commit to increase Niagara Regional Housing’s funding by writing to Doug Ford’s government. The city wishes to chip away at its waitlist for affordable housing.

While the Ontario government does provide funding for social housing, Councillor Greg Miller said that direct grants should be increased as the amounts have stagnated for a substantial period of time.

“If the only plan is to address supply, which is basically what the province asked of us, we’re going to continue to struggle as a city and as a region to address the crisis,” said Miller. “So, I’m asking for the province to step up and pledge to do so.”

With just over six months to make a response, Miller believes that council’s request is a “reasonable ask.”

Councillor Caleb Ratzlaff made an amendment to Miller’s motion, asking the Ford government to extend the expiry date for rent control. Rent control puts limits on the increases landlords can apply to put on renting fees, and currently, there is no rent control for any new units unoccupied as of Nov. 15, 2018 or later. 

This means that for these homes, landlords have the ability to raise rent as much as they please, a problem that does not just apply to luxury rentals — low-income tenants can be greatly affected without the protection of rent control as well.

The original request from the province came through a letter sent to St. Catharines Council from Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark on Oct. 25 of last year, asking the city to take a “housing pledge.” The council was given just over four months to come to a decision with a deadline of March 1.

Council agreed to the provincial government’s request in a meeting on Feb. 27, and detailed a strategy to help the city reach their 11,000-home goal.

Council hopes that funding will be provided as quickly as possible to efficiently deal with Niagara’s housing crisis. With that, they have asked that the provincial government pledge their support in writing by a deadline of Sept. 30.

As of writing, more than 9,000 families are on Niagara’s affordable housing waitlist.

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