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Vital Signs: Affordable Housing

Social assistance rates compared to average rents

Social assistance, including both Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program, comprises two components: 1) a shelter component meant to cover housing costs, and 2) a personal needs amount, to contribute to a household’s living expenses. Over the past two decades, the gap between the shelter component and average market rents widened dramatically. In 2022 the maximum shelter component for a single person on Ontario Works was $390, and for ODSP was $497: less than half of the $920 average monthly rent for a bachelor apartment and the average $1,133 monthly rent for a one-bedroom. For a family of four the maximum shelter component of Ontario Works was $756, and on ODSP was $918, while the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment was $1,450/month. As shown in the next two charts, for units that are currently available to rent, the gap was even more stark: in 2023, the monthly rent for an available one-bedroom apartment was $1,901, and $2,401 for an available two-bedroom unit — three-to-four times the maximum shelter allowances.

Source:  OW – ODSP shelter allowances 2003 – 2016 with author calculations

Source:  OW-ODSP shelter allowances 2017 – 2022 with author calculations

Source:   Average Market Rents by Bedroom type