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Housing is a basic human right1. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion also identifies shelter as a basic prerequisite for health2. Having a home is a key component of recovery for people with mental health conditions3.

A variety of options are available to support individuals with mental health conditions in securing and maintaining housing. Some of these strategies include affordable housing strategies, such as rent supplements, rent that is geared to income. In addition, programs are available that provide housing with supports.

Affordable Housing

“Affordable” refers to housing where tenants do not have to pay more than 30 percent of their before-tax income on rent. Affordable housing is sometimes referred to as social housing. Individuals with serious mental health conditions frequently identify income and housing as the most important factors in achieving and maintaining their health. However, for many, maintaining safe and affordable housing can be difficult. During periods of illness, individuals may be unable to work and/or experience a loss of income. Without adequate income, they may have difficulty paying rent and may eventually lose their home and household contents. Consequently, many live in substandard housing that is physically inadequate, crowded, noisy and located in undesirable neighborhoods. There are waiting lists in many Ontario communities for affordable housing.

Rent supplements can provide individuals with the financial resources they need to access housing in their community. Supplements are intended to bridge the gap between market rent and what you can afford to pay. Your housing provider can provide you with more information on the availability of rent supplements in your area.

Housing with Supports

Housing with supports is an option for those who require some level of support to live in the community in an affordable housing unit. Housing with supports includes “supportive” housing, where supports are offered on site, 24 hrs a day; and supported housing, where supports come to the client wherever they live in the community. Housing with support can generate positive outcomes, including enhanced life skills, improved health status, an increased sense of empowerment and involvement in the community. Improving and maintaining the housing of individuals with mental health conditions can contribute to a reduction in psychiatric symptoms and decrease the need for emergency and treatment services.

Housing First

Many people with mental illnesses experience homelessness. “Housing first” is an approach that offers people with mental health conditions stable, affordable housing to take them out of homelessness, without any other preconditions imposed. Housing first is a practice that is showing promising results in reducing high use of hospital care.4

When people have appropriate, affordable housing, they are more likely to seek and receive other types of supports that can enhance their quality of life.


The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing provides information on who to contact in municipalities to be put on the list for affordable housing.

The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association
The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association offers advice on how to apply for housing, or join a waiting list, and provides a list of coordinated access centres in communities across Ontario.

Ontario’s Mental Health Helpline
The Ontario’s Mental Health Helpline to learn about housing with support programs in your community.

Related Documents

Housing and Mental Health. CMHA Ontario. December 2012.

Joint Submission to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Long-term Affordable Housing Consultation Session. CMHA Ontario et al. July 2009.

Strategies for Reducing Poverty in Ontario. CMHA Ontario. June 2008.

Beyond Housing. At Home / Chez Soi Early Findings Report. Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2012

Turning the Key. Mental Health Commission of Canada. 2012

Where’s Home 2011.