Canada: Ontario's Community Hubs Initiatives Encourage Delivery Of Community-Enhancing Services

Last Updated: June 2 2016
Article by Brennan M. Carroll

Most Read Contributor in Canada, November 2017

Declining public school enrollment has created an expensive surplus of space which school boards must sell or otherwise find uses for. The Ministry of Education, school boards, municipalities and others have begun exploring initiatives to reduce barriers and encourage the creation of "community hubs" in under-utilized public school spaces. According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, a community hub "can be a school, a neighbourhood centre or another public space that offers co-located or integrated services such as education, health care and social services".

The first formal community hub program in Canada, the "Hub School Model", was introduced in Nova Scotia in 2014, as a response to community resistance to the consolidation and closure of schools facing declining enrollment. Ontario schools face similar pressures. An independent review of the Toronto District School Board, submitted to the Minister of Education on January 15, 2015, found that 131 of the Board's 585 schools were operating at 59% capacity or lower. According to the review, the Board faces a renewal backlog of about $3 billion, and lacks funding to address all needs.

Ontario Moves Forward With Community Hub Strategic Framework and Action Plan

In August 2015, Premier Wynne's Community Hubs Framework Advisory Group released a report to guide the creation of community hubs. The report, Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan, identified existing barriers to the creation of community hubs and set out eight recommendations to address these barriers. Although these policy recommendations are directed at the Province, and therefore not directly relevant to schools, any resulting programs or legislative changes may be noteworthy to schools hoping to repurpose excess capacity.

The report's recommendations were as follows:

  1. Designate a provincial lead for community hubs: the Premier's Special Advisor on Community Hubs, Karen Pitre, has been reappointed through 2016-17, and will continue to provide leadership with the Community Hubs Secretariat, Cabinet Office.
  2. Encourage integrated service delivery: establish incentives for integration, increase funding flexibility and reduce administrative burden of integrating service delivery.
  3. Develop a provincial strategy for public assets: develop a comprehensive strategy for inventorying and repurposing public properties using a methodology that considers both social and economic benefits.
  4. Remove barriers and create incentives: work with stakeholders to identify and address barriers relating to capital and operating requirements that prevent establishment of community hubs.
  5. Support integrated local planning: require integrated, client-focused, and long-term community planning that is not limited by jurisdictional boundaries, including long-term capital planning for public spaces.
  6. Develop flexible, sustainable funding: use a range of funding tools and explore different financial models to help establish and sustain community hubs, including social finance, Infrastructure Ontario loans, and hosting provincial government 'anchor tenants'.
  7. Increase local capacity: develop a resource centre to provide support and training for service providers, and make government data available for service planning.
  8. Measure and evaluate: work with the Treasury Board Secretariat's new Centre of Excellence for Evidence-Based Decision Making Support to evaluate the social return on investment in community hubs.

The 2016 Ontario Budget, released on February 25, 2016, accepted the recommendations of the Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan report and allocated funding for the development of a resource network for community partners, including an interactive and online resource centre to provide access to information, best practices and data for community organizations. Funding was also earmarked for implementation of changes to the process of disposition of school properties to support continued community use of surplus schools through leasing or purchase by public agencies.

Also in February 2016, Karen Pitre, Special Advisor on Community Hubs and Chair of the Advisory Group, released an update featuring a number of exciting new community hub projects being developed through collaboration between district school boards and municipalities across Ontario. Featured projects included:

  • development of a community based family centre located at St. Francis Elementary School, London, Ontario; an initiative of the London Catholic District School Board and the City of London;
  • construction of commercial kitchens that can cater local events at Elmvale District High School, Elmvale, Ontario; an initiative of the Simcoe County District School Board and the Township of Springwater;
  • construction of community space and a public library at Greensville Public School, Hamilton, Ontario; an initiative of the Hamilton- Wentworth District School Board and the City of Hamilton; and
  • construction of a public library in the newly renovated Alexander Henry Secondary School, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; an initiative of the Algoma District School Board and the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Ministry Of Education Announces $90 Million In Funding For Construction Of In-School Community Spaces And Child Care

On May 6, 2016, the Ministry of Education announced almost $90 million dollars in funding to expand community space, child and family support programs and child care in schools. The funding will be allocated as follows:

  • $20 million to develop Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres in schools, providing child care spaces and child and family support programs;
  • $18 million to retrofit existing in-school childcare spaces to increase the availability of space for children under the age of four;
  • $50 million to renovate surplus school space to make it available for use by community partners and the public; and
  • Expanded eligibility for school capital funding to construct replacement space in new or existing schools for eligible community partners, in the event their original school locations are closed.

The funding announcement follows the Ministry of Education's April 2015 announcement of $120 million in funding over three years to support the construction of new in-school child care spaces for children up to 3.8 years of age. The funding is targeted at the construction of child care spaces in new or existing schools, reducing surplus space managed by school boards while providing licensed child care for children until they are ready to enter full-day kindergarten. The Province had allocated over $80 million in funding under this initiative by January 2016, creating 2,901 new licensed child care spaces across Ontario.

In-school child-care was facilitated in part through amendments to the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c. 11, Sched. 1, which came into effect on August 31, 2015 and replaced the Day Nurseries Act. Section 75(1) of the Child Care and Early Years Act deems any portion of a child care centre located in a school to be a part of the school "used to provide instructions to pupils" and thereby exempt from any building standards or requirements other than those that apply to the school itself.

Converting Surplus School Space Into Community Hubs — Amendments To Ontario Regulation 444/98 Governing Disposition of School Properties

Currently, the 72 school boards across Ontario operate a total of 5,000 school facilities, valued at approximately $55 billion dollars. When schools are closed, school boards can declare these properties surplus and offer them for sale or lease in accordance with the requirements set out in Ontario Regulation 444/98 — Disposition of Surplus Real Property (O. Reg. 444/98).

On May 5, 2016, O. Reg. 444/98 was amended in response to recommendations in the Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan report. These amendments are expected to come into effect on September 1, 2016.

School boards must still follow the pre-existing two-step process to lease or sell surplus properties. The seller school board must first offer the property to a prioritized list of public sector entities. With the exception of coterminous school boards, which may offer the replacement value of the school, all other public entities are required to purchase the property at fair market value. If no formal offer is made within prescribed timelines, the seller board may advertise the property on the open market. The previous prescribed timelines and the requirement that properties be purchased for fair market value created challenges for public sector entities hoping to make use of surplus school property to deliver valuable community services.

The first key amendment extends the circulation timelines. Organizations that submit an "expression of interest" within 90 days of receiving notification of sale or lease of surplus property now have an additional 90 days to submit a formal offer.

The second key amendment expands and reprioritizes the list of public organizations entitled to receive notification of surplus school property for sale or lease. According to the Ministry of Education, the prioritized list is now as follows (with public entities newly added to the circulation list in italics):

  1. Coterminous school boards;
  2. Agencies accommodating Section 23 programming;
  3. District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs) or Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs);
  4. Public colleges;
  5. Public universities;
  6. Children's mental health lead agencies;
  7. Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs);
  8. Public health boards;
  9. Provincial government (The Crown in Right of Ontario);
  10. Lower-tier municipalities;
  11. Upper-tier municipalities;
  12. Local service boards;
  13. First Nation and Métis Organizations; and
  14. The Federal government.

Although the current round of amendments do not adopt the Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan recommendation that an exemption to the fair market value requirement be made available where a viable community hub plan is presented for a surplus school property that cannot sustain fair market value, it is hoped that the circulation timeline extension will give community agencies additional time to develop workable funding plans.

Property Tax Considerations

A school board deciding to lease surplus school land to community agencies should be clear in its leasing documentation that it has the ability to collect property tax in addition to other rent owing. The property tax exemptions enjoyed by schools under the Assessment Act are not "transferrable" to tenants who do not use the space for school purposes and thus it can be anticipated that property taxes will be applied as a result of this change in use. Community agencies leasing land should also consider this issue when budgeting for a new space.

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions