A Brief History of Social Housing

Social housing refers to rental housing developed with the assistance of government and subsidized by government for people with low to moderate incomes, seniors, or people with special needs who can live, with supports, in the community.

Historic Timelines

Early 1950's

  • The first social housing project in Canada was Regent Park in Toronto built in the early 1950's, funded by the City of Toronto with provincial and federal contributions
  • Regent Park, Canada's largest publicly funded housing development and home to about 7,500 people, is currently undergoing a massive revitalization program

1964-1979 - Public Housing Program

  • Subsidized housing owned by the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Housing Corporation (OHC)
  • Managed by 54 Local Housing Authorities (LHAs) across the province
  • Cost-shared by the provincial and federal governments
  • Public housing developments range from single family homes to large apartment complexes
  • There are approximately 84,000 households living in public housing in Ontario
  • The provincial government stopped building public housing in the late 1970's in favour of supporting the development of smaller community-based non-profits and co-ops

1973-1978 - Non-Profit and Co-operative Housing Program

  • Mixed income housing projects (both rent-geared-to-income and market units) were built through the sponsorship of community-based non-profit corporations
  • Funded by the federal government through Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
  • The provincial government provided rent subsidy funding
  • Over 135,000 households live in housing which is owned and managed by local non-profit housing groups

1978-1985 - Co-operative & Private Non-Profit Housing Program

  • A continuation of the mixed income housing program
  • Housing sponsored by community-based non-profit housing corporations
  • Built using program funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) with rent subsidy assistance from the Province

1979-1985 - Municipal Non-Profit Housing Program

  • Tri-partite agreements signed by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments
  • Program designed to support an active municipal role in the provision of housing for people with low to moderate incomes

1986-1993 - Federal/Provincial Non-Profit Housing Program

  • A federal/provincial cost-sharing program to provide housing for people with low and moderate incomes

1986-1995 - Provincial Non-Profit Housing Program

  • Programs included P 3,000, P 10,000, Homes Now, and Jobs Ontario homes to provide additional supplies of housing for people with low and moderate incomes and special needs
  • Provincially-funded
  • Most non-profit housing was built after 1985 (except federal programs). The housing projects are generally small in scale (under 100 units) and fit well into neighbourhood communities


  • Virtually no new social housing was built during this period with the exception of some community-based non-profit housing built with financial support provided by localized municipal and homelessness initiatives

1997-1999 - Planning for Social Housing Reform and Business Transfer

  • The Province of Ontario announced its intention to transfer business to 47 Service Managers across the province

November 1999 - Social Housing Agreement (SHA) is signed

  • The federal/provincial Social Housing Agreement was signed in 1999 to transfer the administration of federal social housing projects previously administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to the Province of Ontario
  • The federal government annually forwarded its share of the cost of federal programs to the Province

December 2000 - Social Housing Reform Act is signed

  • The Province of Ontario enacted the Social Housing Reform Act (Bill 128) on December 15, 2000
  • This legislation paved the way for the transfer of all social housing programs to the administration of 47 local Service Managers or, in northern Ontario, DSSABs (District Social Services Administration Boards) across the province
  • The Act and associated Regulations establish rules and procedures for such matters as the powers and duties of Service Managers, local housing corporations, rent-geared-to-income eligibility, the selection of applicants, the calculation of rent, operating frameworks for social housing providers and subsidy funding formulas
  • Under the SHRA, a minimum of 946 rent-geared-to-income units must be maintained in the St. Thomas - Elgin Service Manager Area
  • The Province continues to receive the federal share of social housing funding which is distributed to Service Managers quarterly throughout the fiscal year. The balance of social housing costs is paid by the City and is cost-shared with the County

January 1, 2001 - Public housing is transferred to Service Managers

  • The transfer of social housing was done in two phases. Phase I occurred on January 1, 2001 when public housing were transferred to the 47 Service Manager Areas in Ontario
  • In St. Thomas - Elgin, 512 units of public housing were transferred to the newly-incorporated Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation (formerly the Housing Authority) with the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas as sole shareholder

March 1, 2002 - Phase II transfers

  • Phase II occurred on March 1, 2002 when the balance of social housing, including former provincial programs, federal unilateral programs, and municipal non-profits, were transferred to the City of St. Thomas' administration
  • See "Types of Social Housing Providers" for a list of the 1,300 units of social housing in St. Thomas and Elgin County now administered by the City of St. Thomas

September 15, 2016

  • The Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation amalgamated with the City of St. Thomas and the 512 units of public housing were transferred back to the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas.