Debate began this week on the Non‑Profit Housing Co‑operatives Statute Law Amendment Act, 2012, Bill 65 – the co‑op eviction law reform bill. You’ll remember that this bill, first introduced in the house in April 2012, has been enthusiastically received by housing co‑ops and is supported by all parties in the Legislature. Of 107 ridings in Ontario, 95 contain housing co‑ops, so indeed this is a bill that has a province‑wide impact!
Minister Wynne introduced the bill for second reading on October 2, 2012 celebrating the important role co‑op housing plays in the provision of housing generally in Ontario and in particular, in the provincial long‑term affordable housing strategy. “I believe that a housing sector that offers diversity for Ontario is not complete without a healthy co‑op sector.”
Wynne went on to urge the federal government to become a full funding partner with the province and municipalities to provide affordable housing to Ontarians, emphasising the risk that affordable housing stock in Ontario, valued in excess of $50 billion, will continue to deteriorate without the full participation of all levels of government. Wynne’s legislative colleague, Mario Sergio, spoke at length about the co‑op movement more broadly and the important role it plays in Ontario and around the world as a sustainable model of business that survives crises.
Progressive Conservative critic, Steve Clerk, weighed in on October 3, 2012 with a surprisingly strong bid for increased affordable housing in Ontario, citing the staggering wait‑list statistics as a reason to do better as a province on the issue of housing ‑‑ reportedly the first time in the 17 years since Harris cut housing programs that a PC MPP spoke seriously in favour of affordable housing. Indeed an historic occasion!
On October 4, 2012, the NDP has its chance to comment on Bill 65 and the related broader affordable housing issues. MPP Cindy Forster stressed the importance of political engagement in housing co‑ops that sets them apart from rental housing and from condominium living. The engagement and the kind of community support that falls from it mean that co‑op residents are more satisfied with the sense of community than any residents living in other forms of housing.
What conclusions can we draw from this three‑day housing co‑op love‑in at Queen’s Park?
Well, while there were some minor criticisms of the eviction reform bill (look for our upcoming blog entries about these), the bill will most certainly be passed with some minor tweaking and without much effort on the part of the government. In a minority house, this one should be an easy one to put to bed.
But the more important issues related to the important role of the co‑op sector in providing affordable housing. Clearly there seems to be provincial all‑party will to advance affordable housing issues and general agreement that co‑ops play an important role. How the federal government might assist remains an open and important question as federal operating agreements begin to expire. Our thoughts on the pending expirations will follow in future blogs.
If you’d like to read the 2nd reading debates in more detail, they can be found here.