The Cahdco staff are still reflecting on our experience at ONPHA. Like my other colleagues, I attended to 2022 ONPHA conference that was held in November.

My initial impression of the event, as we stood with lanyards at the registration desk, was how excited everyone seemed. The positive buzz and breakfast made us feel welcome.

The excitement carried on into the opening plenary: which was called “The Journey”. We all stood up, looked before, envisioned what we could have been, thought about what we cannot wait to get to, and how we wanted to move towards our shared horizon. We raised our hands together, did some stretching, and got ambitious about reaching toward the top while visualizing horizons, seeing what we want for ourselves, our organization, our tenants, and our communities. we kept reaching and reaching and then brought our hands to our hearts: HOME!!!

Something that was clear…

“We are consistently in a changing environment…”

“We are consistently in a changing environment…”

“We are consistently in a changing environment…”

I’ve heard that statement many times at the conference.

By now, chances are you have heard about the fact that we are getting closer to the end-of-mortgage (EOM) or end-of-agreement (EOA) day.

If you are like a lot of housing providers, you may be wondering, how exactly will this affect me? My operation? My community?

This blog is a summary of what I learned during one of ONPHA sessions on EOM & EOA.

Before diving into the details, here is some basic information:

Based on the Government of Ontario website, “A service agreement is a contract negotiated between the housing provider and the service manager for the provision of community housing under Part VII.1 of the HSA that stipulates terms regarding operations, administration, and funding arrangements.”

In 2020, some amendments were made to the Housing Services Act, 2011 (HSA) which are intended to:

  • Work as allies for the mutual benefits of service relationships between Service Managers and Housing Providers.
  • Implement modern accountability practices to put people first.
  • Enhance access to housing assistance for vulnerable people by updating the regulations for Service Managers.

Now, you might ask what that means and why it is important to consider, and why do these new changes make so many housing organizations nervous?

Well, there will be a number of key players who will be affected by these regulatory changes:

Housing Providers, and Service Managers.

One of the big challenges about the original provincial legislation is that it didn’t deliberate about a post-EOM/EOA post-world.

Based on what I learned from the session, you have three doors that you can knock on as mortgages and operating agreements come to an end:

  • To stay in and then enter into a new service agreement with your Service Manager
  • To exit the current HSA funding and regulatory system
  • To opt in a new service agreement

The difference between “stay in” and “opt in” option is that in “stay in” you are already under the framework, but the “opt in” is for those who are outside of the framework right now, and there is an opportunity to opt in.

No matter which door you open, you always have a future option to exit out or opt back in as long as you can come to an agreement with your Service Manager.

If you choose to continue under the HSA, you should perform the following steps:

  • Confirm operating parameters
  • Develop financial plan
  • Negotiate the agreement with Service Manager
  • Set an effective date
  • Notice to Minister

In case the exit the HSA, some steps will be still the same with a few additional ones, including:

  • Confirm operating parameters
  • Develop implementation plan
  • Negotiate the agreement with Service Manager
  • Set an effective date
  • Notice to Minister
  • Request formally to de-list from Social Housing Agreement (SHA) and O.Reg 368/11

Now, the question is, should you stay or should you exit Let’s explore the options in more detail:

To Stay:

In this option, with all regulatory changes around the waiting list, you will still keep operating largely under the provisions of the HSA.

There will be some added flexibilities relates to affordability.

There will be a reconsideration in financial framework for those working under the provincial programs. The funding formula structure will no longer apply and that will rely on an operating relationship that is negotiated through discussions with Service Manager, however, participation in some standard programs like gas insurance will still be obliged.

Considerations:

  • It is subject to restrictions on the sale of buildings.
  • There are Limits to flexibility on portfolio administration.
  • There is a provision under the legislation for the Minister to issue directives. Both Service Managers and housing providers are obliged to follow that.

To Exit:

If you choose to exit, your operation’s will be outside of the HSA.

For the in-situ rent geared to income (RGI) households, maintaining and protecting those tenancies are required. The Service Manager is obliged to keep funding those households.

There is more ability to direct the financial sustainability.

There is no requirement to use mandated programs like OPHI (Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative), COCHI (Canada – Ontario Community Housing Initiative).

Considerations:

  • There are obviously some benefits, freedom, and reward coming along with exiting the HSA, but also there might be some potential risks that you should be aware of and consider how you will be able to mitigate the impact.
  • The financial piece is really fundamental and it needs to dwell on ways for revenue generating and raising capital.
  • There is more latitude for building disposition and making decisions about what you want to do with your buildings.

Note: exiting does not mean you are completely removed from Service Manager.

To Opt-in:

If you want to opt in and move under the provisions of HSA, you should convince a Service Manager by giving a compelling reason why you want to give up the certain amount of freedom you have now and get in under the HSA umbrella and sign to its requirements.

It is required to present how your current operation looks like and how it is going to be moving forward.

Considerations:

  • There is potential for greater restrictions on asset disposition.
  • You might desire or need to access prescribed programs and services.

Key Takeaways:

Vision

There are many factors that influence which option a housing provider should choose. You need to have a clear vision, understand the status quo, re-imagine your future, and decide where you want to go. The opportunities and risks will vary depending on which program type your building is in and the composition of your portfolio.

When making a decision you should consider a multi-dimensional analysis, including:

  • Financial sustainability: do some financial modeling and test various scenarios. e.g. what will happen if raising rents, or changing the RGI mix, or adding other sources of non-rental revenue. These assumptions need to be pushed and pulled to understand what is the potential for your vision.
  • Capital, operating, and asset position: Looking at all facets of your operations financially.
  • Governance: you need to have the right board in place with skill-based members. Some required skills: development, human resource, and accounting. You might need a lawyer to leverage their legal advice.
  • Risk identification and risk planning: understand the risks that might arise while planning to get to your vision from where you are today and plan to mitigate them.

Service Manager Relationship

Yes, it is all about your relationship with your Service Manager too. The contractual arrangement between the housing provider and Service Manager is that relationship. You need to know who is in the room when it comes to negotiating the agreement. You need to understand their feeling, concerns and their pressures. This way both parties can find a common ground to see where they are coming from, and what common benefits and interests they have.

Since the regulations are new and we are still in transition, it is critical to remember that Service Managers are also new to the framework and are trying to understand the different elements, such as flexed affordability (standard RGI, OW/ODSP Shelter max, alternative forms of assistance) and how they want to approach this.

Articles of Incorporation is your leader.

What is defined your work? Is that your mission, or mandate? It is important to understand what defines what you do to make the right choice of staying or exiting. Your mission is what you are pursuing and that is not found in the Housing Services Act but rather in your Articles of Incorporation. Understand what’s written there is a key for your door!

Hurry up! Time is Money!

If your mortgage is coming to an end soon, and you have not done anything yet, it is better to begin planning before it is too late. This process and decision will take longer than you think it does. There are many considerations that should be in place

This scenario reminds me of the Clash song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”:

Darling, you got to let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So, come on and let me know.

 

 

Some useful sources that might be of interest:

Community Housing Renewal Strategy Transformation Guide

Ontario’s New Community Housing Regulatory Framework – FAQ 2.0

Panel Discussion: Federal Budget 2024 & Affordable Housing

Join  us at our latest panel discussion on the federal budget and what it means for affordable housing!