Find Affordable Housing

There are thousands of affordable housing units in Waterloo Region but as in many communities, demand is high. Applicants are placed on a wait list. Before applying, the Renter's Toolkit can help you look for and budget for a place to live in the private rental market.

As COVID-19 recovery continues, Community Services is re-opening its Welcome Spaces and resuming in-person service. However, things look a little different as we work together to stay healthy. Find out what you should know before you visit. If you have a question about the community housing process or your place on the wait list, please email chac@regionofwaterloo.ca

How to apply

Our Community Housing Access Centre processes all applications. We make offers for housing and keep your information up to date so that housing providers can reach you when a unit becomes available.

There are three ways to apply for affordable housing:


Types of affordable housing

The Region of Waterloo oversees 5,600 affordable housing units; learn about the types below. You can also view the properties in our affordable housing catalogue or see the full listing of properties in the print version of the Building Selection Form.

Co-ops
Tenants are members of the co-op community they live in and are required to help maintain it.
Non-profit
These properties are owned by service clubs, faith groups, ethnic organizations, community agencies or municipal governments.
Waterloo Region Housing
These properties are owned and managed by the Region. There are over 2,700 units in the region's cities and townships.
Rent supplement programs
Tenants pay what they can afford to, and live in units owned by landlords in the private market. The Region gives funds to the landlord to cover the difference.
Below average market rent
These are private landlords who have a certain number of units in their buildings that they charge lower rent for.

Other affordable housing rent assistance

The Region of Waterloo offers other affordable rent assistance programs for applicants that are on the Community Housing Access Centre waitlist. See the Who is Eligible section below for details. Eligible applicants will be contacted directly by the Region of Waterloo staff or eligible Community Partner referrals. This is a closed application process and is offered through invitation.

 Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB)

The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) program provides households with a portable housing benefit to assist with rental costs in the private housing market. The benefit is portable and can be used to help pay rent anywhere in Ontario. The Region of Waterloo will process applications for those applicants living in the Region. Please contact your local Housing Service Department if you are living elsewhere and would like to apply for COHB

This provincially administered benefit is available to eligible priority groups who are on, or are eligible to be on, the Centralized Waiting List for Rent Geared-to-Income subsidized housing.

The COHB pays the difference between 30 per cent of the household’s adjusted family net income and the average market rent in the area. For recipients of social assistance, the COHB will pay the difference between the shelter allowance and the household’s rent and utilities costs. The Province of Ontario administers the program and the benefit amount is reviewed every year.

Eligible applicants will be contacted directly by Region of Waterloo staff or eligible Community Partner referrals. This is a closed application process and is offered through invitation.

COHB applicants must reside in Ontario and be on the Centralized Waiting List for community housing in Waterloo Region.

Benefit Amount:

The benefit amount will depend on the recipient’s household size and income. The amount is calculated using a formula that includes household income, the number of people in the household, and the local housing market rents in the Service Manger Area.

Calculation Method:

Portable Housing Benefit (PHB) calculation

The Portable Housing Benefit (PHB) is calculated by subtracting 30 per cent of Adjusted Family Net Income (AFNI) for the household from 80 per cent of the Average Market Rent (AMR) for the area:

Monthly Portable Housing Benefit = (AMR x 80%) – [(AFNI x 30%)] / 12

AFNI is the annual net income of all members of a family unit or benefit unit, excluding full-time students. It also excludes net Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) payments and net monthly Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments. It is generally based on net income (line 23600 on your Canada Revenue Agency Notice of Assessment) if it reasonably reflects your net income or approximated net income.

AMR is the average rent in your area as determined and reported by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Eligibility for the Program:

To receive the COHB, applicants must agree to be removed from the Centralized Waiting List as required by Provincial program guidelines. Households will not be eligible to re-apply to the Region of Waterloo’s Centralized Waiting List while receiving the benefit.

Households cannot be receiving COHB and Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing or any other form of housing benefit at the same time.

COHB is a portable benefit, which means that it will continue to support households wherever they move in Ontario. The benefit amount may change to reflect the average local market rent.

The COHB program ends on March 31, 2029. Two years before COHB ends households will be contacted to consider its options. These may include other rental assistance programs. 

Application Process:

The application process is by invitation only. The Region of Waterloo and eligible Community Partner referrals will be contacting applicants from the following identified priority groups about COHB based on the availability of benefits:

  • Persons experiencing homelessness
  • Persons at risk of homelessness
  • Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking
  • Seniors
  • Indigenous persons
  • Persons with disabilities requiring modified units

Contacted applicants will require the following documents to submit an application for COHB:

For all applicants:

  • Your complete current address or the one you plan to move to
  • Rental costs
  • Utility costs (if paid directly by household)
  • Mailing address
  • Banking information (banking information can be found on a cheque)

For each household income earner (who are not full time students):

  • Their Canada Revenue Agency Notice of Assessment
  • Social Insurance Numbers
  • An email address for the primary applicant

There is a limited number of benefits available. All eligible applicants who have been contacted are encouraged to contact Region of Waterloo staff to ensure access to the program.

After the Application:
If you have been contacted as an eligible applicant and completed the application process, the Ontario Ministry of Finance (MOF) will contact you directly to inform you if your application has been approved.

Once approved, you can contact the Province’s Information Centre for questions about your benefit at 1-888-544-5101 or 1-800-263-7776 (TTY).

If you are approved to receive this benefit, you are considered to be affordably housed. Your application for Rent-Geared-to-Income housing will be closed and you will be removed from the Centralized Waiting List.

Will my benefit amount ever change?
Your benefit amount will be reviewed annually by the Province and may increase or decrease because of changes to your income, your household size or if you move to another location.

If your income decreases by more than 20 per cent during the year, you may request a review from the Ministry of Finance to have your benefit amount reassessed.

If you move out of the Region of Waterloo to another location in Ontario, your benefit amount will be calculated according to the average local market rent of that area. It will be modified to reflect the change in rental charges.

What do I need to do to keep receiving COHB?
All COHB households will receive an annual renewal application from the Province in May, which you must complete and return to confirm your household information and consent to remain in the program. The Province will provide information on how to submit the renewal application and the submission deadline.

The Province will provide several reminders and opportunities for you to submit your annual renewal in advance of the final September 1st deadline. Unfortunately, households who do not return their annual renewal application by the September 1st deadline will no longer be eligible to receive assistance through the COHB program. Reinstatement into the program is not permitted, as per Provincial program guidelines.

Province’s Information Centre can be reached at 1-888-544-5101 or 1-800-263-7776 (TTY).

Legislative website reference at https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r22242

Reference Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/community-housing-renewal-strategy 

 Building Better Futures Program (BBFP) Rent Assistance

The Building Better Futures Program (BBFP) provides households with a portable housing benefit to assist with rental costs in the private housing market. The rent assistance program is tied to the household and can be used to help pay rent anywhere in the Region of Waterloo.

BBFP key messages:

  • As a social determinant of health, housing is foundational to promoting a healthy community for all. That is why of the $15 million dollar investment, an annual amount of $1.55 million dollars will be invested to create a new Rent Assistance Program to help make housing more affordable for racialized families.
  • The Program will provide rent assistance to help reduce housing costs for 200 households. The rent assistance is portable, meaning the money will follow the family where they choose to live in Waterloo Region. Families can use the money to help make their current home more affordable, or to move to another rental home. The new program will support affordability for all and will:
    • Make housing more affordable for racialized families;
    • Strengthen partnerships with community agencies serving racialized communities;
    • Promote social and economic inclusion; and
    • Facilitate community capacity building.

This is a closed application process. Eligible households are referred through local agencies and the Region’s Centralized Waiting List for Community Housing in Waterloo Region.

Application Process:
The Region of Waterloo and eligible referring Community Partners’ staff will be contacting eligible applicants from racialized communities.
Contacted applicants will require the following documents to submit an application for BBFP:

For all applicants:

  • Your complete current address or the one you plan to move to
  • Rental costs
  • Utility costs (if paid directly by household)
  • Mailing address
  • Banking information (banking information can be found on a cheque)

For each household income earner (who are not full time students):

  • Their Canada Revenue Agency Notice of Assessment
  • Social Insurance Numbers
  • An email address for the primary applicant

There is a limited number of benefits available. If you have been contacted you are encouraged to complete your application as soon as possible to ensure access to the program.

After the Application:
If you have been contacted as an eligible applicant and completed the application process, you will start to receive the program benefits either directly, or by having rent assistance paid directly to your landlord.

If you are approved to receive this benefit, you are considered to be affordably housed. Your application for Rent-Geared-to-Income housing will be closed and you will be removed from the Centralized Waiting List.

Once you begin to receive benefits, you can reach out to Region of Waterloo or Community Partners’ staff with questions about the program.

Will my eligibility for the program be reviewed?
Your benefit amount will be reviewed annually by Region of Waterloo or Community Partners’ staff and you may be found ineligible for the program if your household:

  • Moves outside of Waterloo Region;
  • Accepts Rent-Geared-to-Income rental subsidy elsewhere
  • Is in receipt of other government funded housing benefit or allowance other than the Building Better Futures (BBF) program
  • Income exceeds the Household Income Limits for Community Housing as defined by the Housing Services Act, 2011 (Appendix I);
  • Buys a home suitable for year-round occupancy

What do I need to do to keep receiving BBFP?
All BBFP households will receive an annual renewal application that you must complete and return to confirm your household information and consent to remain in the program. The Region of Waterloo or Community Partners’ staff will provide information on how to submit the renewal application and the submission deadline.

You will receive reminders and opportunities for you to submit your annual renewal in advance of the annual review deadline. Unfortunately, households who do not return their annual renewal application by the deadline may experience a delay in receiving their benefits, or removal from the BBFP rent assistance.

Who is eligible

To qualify for affordable housing:

  • At least one person living with you is 16 or older and can live on their own
  • You (and anyone living with you) are a Canadian citizen or have made a claim for permanent resident or refugee claimant status
  • There is no removal order under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act against you or anyone living with you
  • You do not owe money for rent/damages to a housing provider or you have an approved re-payment agreement in place
  • No one living with you has a conviction for any offences related to housing assistance
  • You do not already own a home suitable for year-round living
  • Your gross yearly household income is not more than the limit. The limits by bedroom size are in the table below.

Annual Household Income Limits, effective January 1, 2023
Unit type Housing in Wellesley, Wilmot Township Housing in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, North Dumfries, Woolwich Township
Bachelor $31,000 $34,000
1 Bedrooms $34,000 $44,000
2 Bedrooms $42,500 $52,000
3 Bedrooms $42,000 $59,500
4+ Bedrooms $50,000 $74,500

Please note that household’s with an annual income that exceeds these amounts, are not eligible for placement on the waiting list for the Region of Waterloo’s community housing programs.


How vacancies are filled

How vacancies are filled depends on your situation; see below for priorities and the criteria for each. Please call us to discuss your options before you apply.

Victims of domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence can receive special priority for affordable housing. You may qualify if:

  • You or someone you live with has been abused;
  • The abusing individual is or was living with the victim or is sponsoring the victim as an immigrant or has in the last three months; and
  • The victim intends to permanently separate from the abusing individual.

To apply for special priority, please fill out the affordable housing application, Request for Special Priority for Victims of Domestic Violence, and the building selection form.

Victims of human trafficking

Victims of human trafficking can receive special priority for affordable housing. You may qualify if:

  • You or someone you live with is experiencing human trafficking; or
  • You or someone you live with experienced human trafficking in the past but less than three months has passed since it stopped.

To apply for special priority, please fill out the affordable housing applicationRequest for Special Priority for Victims of Human Trafficking, and the building selection form.

Terminally ill
If you or someone you live with has been medically diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of two years or less, you can apply for terminally ill status. Please fill out the affordable housing applicationbuilding selection formRequest for Terminally Ill Priority and the Medical Form.
Over-housed

The number of bedrooms you qualify for depends on the number of people living with you. If are in affordable housing now and a person you live with moves out, you may need to move to a smaller unit. If you would like to stay in the same building, and your building has a unit you qualify for, you can go on a waiting list for a transfer.

If your building does not have the right unit size, you would work with us and your housing provider to find another building.

To apply for over-housed status, please fill out and submit the affordable housing application and the building selection form.

You will be placed on the waiting list for units you qualify for, and will need to choose at least ten possible sites.

Local statuses

If you have lived in the Region of Waterloo for the last 12 consecutive months and have a low income, you may qualify for one of the three local waiting list status categories below.

 

1. Homeless - If your household is currently unsheltered for one of the following reasons, you may  qualify for this status:

  • are living on the street (no shelter), OR
  • are using the emergency shelter system as your primary residence; OR
  • have a home that has recently been destroyed by fire or natural disaster (within the last 3 months); OR
  • are waiting to get out of hospital, or another treatment facility, cannot return to your previous residence, and will not be released until you find suitable housing.

To apply, complete the Request for Homeless Status and Housing Search forms and submit them with your affordable housing application.

 
2. Separated Families - If your household has children in the care of Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region that will not be returned until adequate housing is found and housing is the only remaining protection issue, you might qualify for this local status.

To apply, complete the Request for Separated Families Status and Housing Search forms and submit them with your affordable housing application.

 

3. Escaping Violence - If you have applied for Special Priority Status for Victims of Domestic Violence, but are unable to provide proof of co-habitation or are experiencing exceptional risk due to criminal activity, you might qualify for this local status.


To apply, complete Request for Escaping Violence Status and Housing Search forms and submit them with your affordable housing application.

 

4. Sunnyside priority - If you are 60 years or older and have a direct family member living at Sunnyside Home, you may receive priority for a unit there. To qualify, you must:

  • Apply through the Community Housing Access Centre;

  • Qualify for rent-geared-to-income assistance; and

  • Include a letter with your application that confirms your spouse, partner, parent, sibling, or child lives at Sunnyside Home, and that you have an active role in the life and care of this person.

To apply for Sunnyside priority, please fill out and submit the affordable housing application and the building selection form.


Frequently asked questions

If you have a question or concern about affordable housing that is not answered here, please give us a call so we can help you.

How long will I wait for affordable housing?

As in many communities, the demand for affordable housing is high in Waterloo Region.  How long you wait can depend on how many properties you choose on your application and their popularity. If you have been granted priority status, you will be housed sooner than applicants who do not have this status.

How do I keep my application active?
Call 519-575-4400 or update your application online if any information you gave to us on your application changes. This includes:
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • The number of people living with you
  • Your income
  • Your housing preferences
Can I choose where I want to live?
If you are applying for priority you can choose several locations from the Building Selection Form that you submit with your application. 
Can I choose what building I want to live in on the application?
No, but you can choose which city or township you would like to live in and how many bedrooms you need (based on the number of people in your household).
When can I choose which building I want to live in?
If you have not been granted priority status, as you get closer to the top of the wait list for housing we will contact you and set up a time to meet to help you explore your building options. In the meantime, we encourage you to browse the housing catalogue.
Are there seniors-only buildings available?
Yes, to apply for a unit in a seniors-only building, please fill out the affordable housing application and Building Selection Form for Seniors Sites.
How many bedrooms am I eligible for?
This is based on how many people live with you. Singles and couples would be eligible for a one-bedroom unit, plus an extra bedroom for each person living with them. So if you are a single parent or a couple with one child, you would be eligible for a two-bedroom unit.
If I own property, am I eligible for affordable housing?
Yes, eligibility is based on your income level. However, within six months of receiving a unit, you will need to show proof that you sold your unit. To apply, please fill out the affordable housing application and Declaration of Intent to Sell Property.
How will I receive an offer?

As soon as a unit opens up, you and/or your alternate will be contacted. It is important that you keep all of your information up to date.

If you don't respond within 24-48 hours (varies depending on the building you are offered), your file may be placed on hold until we can confirm your contact information. Even if you aren't interested in the unit that becomes available for you, please let us know so you don't miss out on other offers.

How do I update the information on my application if it changes?

You should let our office know of any changes on your file within 30 days of the change, or your file could be cancelled. Changes you need to let us know about include:

  • Your address
  • Phone number
  • Alternate contacts (in case we can't reach you)
  • Number of people in your family
  • Your landlord's name and phone number
  • Your status in Canada
  • Your household income

To update your information, please fill out and submit the Applicant Information Change form, call the Service First Call Centre at 519-575-4400 or visit a Community Housing Access Centre.

How do I defer my application for community housing?
Please fill out the Request for Deferral of Application Form and send the form to the Community Housing Access Centre by email, fax, mail, or drop off.
How do I remove my name from an application for community housing?

If your name is on an application for community housing and you would like it to be removed from the application, please fill out and submit the Applicant Removal Request Form by email, fax, mail, or drop off. You will receive confirmation from us that your name has been removed.

Please note that when you remove your name from an application with more than one name on it, the application will remain active. 

How do I cancel my application for community housing?

Please notify your designated Housing Co-ordinator of your intention to cancel your housing application in one of three ways: email, fax, or mail/in-person.

Email: If you do not know their email address, please email housingapplication@regionofwaterloo.ca or call 519-575-4400.

Fax: 519-893-8648

Mail/In-Person: You can drop off or mail your written statement to any of the Welcome Spaces at the locations below.

Please address mail to: "Attention: CHAC"

  • 99 Regina St. S., Waterloo, ON N2J 4V3
  • 150 Main St., Cambridge, ON N1R 6P9
  • 235 King St. E., Kitchener, ON N2G 4N5
How many housing offers can I turn down?

Applicants on the wait list will receive one offer for housing.  As of July 1st, 2020, when you receive a housing offer, you will be given the first unit that comes available from the list of units you chose when you applied.  You can no longer turn down the offer of housing.  The change from receiving three offers to one offer of housing is to help people move into housing more quickly.

Please make sure the properties you have chosen are where you would like to live. To add or remove properties from your application, please complete the building selection form

Refusing an offer will result in a loss of subsidy for people already living in subsidized housing. If you are an applicant, you would lose your place on the wait list.  

What if I disagree with the decision that I am not eligible for affordable housing?

If you disagree with a decision about your application, we do recommend that you try to work with the person who made the decision. If you are unable to, you can request a review by completing and sending us the Request for Review form that was mailed to you with your decision letter. If you do not have this form, please call the Community Housing Access Centre at 519-575-4400. Please note that only certain types of decisions are reviewable.

What if I move and sign a lease while I am waiting for affordable housing?
Sometimes applicants find a place to live while they are waiting for affordable housing. Before you make any commitments (such as signing a lease), please contact your Housing Access Coordinator to understand how it may impact your application.
Why are some sites listed as smoke free and how does this affect my application?

Some of the Community Housing sites listed on the application may be designated as smoke free sites. If you accept an offer of one of these units, you will not be able to smoke in your unit or anywhere in the building, if it is an apartment. This does not mean that there are no smokers in the building or that the unit you will be offered was never occupied by someone who was a smoker. It just means that all new tenants will have a smoke free lease.

Sites could become smoke free at any time. It is important that you let us know your preference because if we are not aware and you turn down a unit that is smoke free, the offer will be counted as one of your three offers for affordable housing.

Is my information private?

The Region of Waterloo collects personal information in the Community Housing Application and supporting documents under the Housing Services Act, 2011. The Region uses this information to determine a person's eligibility for housing, continuation of housing, and the appropriate rent-geared-to-income charge. With consent, the Region may exchange personal information in this application with Access Sites and housing providers to arrange a placement or housing assistance. Personal information may also be exchanged between the Region and other institutions where required or allowed by law.

 

Please contact the Community Housing Access Centre if you have any questions about the collection and use of personal information.

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