DSSAB working to shorten housing waitlist

Sam Odrowski

Fort Frances’ housing shortage continues to affect much of its population.
While the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) operates or manages 500 dwelling units, it currently has 250 individuals on waitlists for housing.
“We have a real lack of housing in our district, particularly for seniors that don’t need rent geared to income or need housing supports,” explained DSSAB CAO, Dan McCormick at the Rainy River District Municipal Association (RRDMA) AGM in late January.
“And the other side is for single people that need a cheaper accommodation.”
McCormick said his organization is also working hard to address housing needs for disadvantaged individuals.
When looking at funding, the Ford government has maintained its commitments to the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) for 2020.
CHPI will provide the DSSAB with $460,000 this year, although no commitment to supply that funding for future years has been made yet.
“For us that really is concerning,” McCormick stressed, as the DSSAB depends on that money each year.
Meanwhile, a newer government program that was introduced early last year, the Canada Ontario Community housing Initiative (COCHI) replaced an expiring federal program and will give just over $200,000 to the local DSSAB in 2021/22.
The Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI) will provide the DSSAB with about $71,000 in 2020/21 and $110,000 in 2021/22 as well.
The province also recently announced the Canadian Ontario Housing Benefit, which will supply a little over $34,000 in 2020/21 and nearly $45,000 in 2021/22.
“That’s suppose to be an affordable housing benefit to follow people,” noted McCormick, who said its key to track their clients progress as they access housing.
“But we’re looking at saying [to the province] ‘well how much can we actually do with $34,000?'”
The program also only allows up to a five percent administration fee per household, with a $250 cap.
“We think that the staff tied to administer this is going to be well beyond the $250,” McCormick said. He added that he’s unsure of if they will take the money because of its administrative limitations.
The Northern Ontario Service Deliveries Association (NOSDA), which includes the 10 DSSAB’s in northern Ontario, has conducted evaluations on the Canadian Ontario Housing Benefit that revealed the costs may exceed $250.
NOSDA and the local DSSAB are making briefings with the Ministry of municipal affairs and housing to try and change the program before it becomes entrenched, McCormick noted.
The DSSAB, meanwhile, recently completed its Housing and Homelessness Plan update and it’s currently awaiting approval from the province.
The plan will be shared broadly with the public following its approval and is required by law to be updated every five years.