Homelessness is Not a Crime. Housing is a Human Right.
“Ontario is the only province which, in 2000, downloaded its funding and administrative responsibilities for social housing to the municipal (or regional) government level.” From Housing Services Corporation (p. 3)
The issue of housing is critical to the City of Toronto. It is important that we consider it in its entirety. The provincial government has committed to building 1.5 million homes over the next decade to increase the housing supply. To enable this, the City of Toronto needs to build 285,000 new homes of all types by 2031 to accommodate population growth and immigration. To get this done, as mayor, I will:
- Convene an emergency summit with the Federal and Provincial governments with the aim of signing an agreement to ensure Toronto has the funds necessary to achieve the 285,000 unit target, and the ability to establish the associated infrastructure.
2. Expand EPIC program to protect tenants and prevent evictions. But also:
- Conduct an assessment of current assets to ensure that vacant or unoccupied City owned properties are being used to address the needs of Torontonians, and where feasible, repurpose existing assets to provide necessary shelter or housing space.
- Work with builders to leverage empty spaces to build community hubs and shared spaces, instead of demolishing them (which has a high carbon footprint).
- Assess Section 37 of the Planning Act to ensure a more diverse range of benefits based on community needs (i.e. entrepreneurial hubs, Indigenous learning spaces, children’s or eldercare centres).
3. Speed up building approvals and cut red tape by implementing a conditional approval process. Toronto ranked last, across the country in approval times and charges for housing. According to Dave Wilkes from the Building Industry and Land Development Association, these approval times are four and a half times longer than the maximum allowed under the Planning Act.
There is a roster of projects that are already funded and just awaiting approvals. Billions in the federal government’s National Housing Strategy have not been spent, and many Housing Now sites barely have shovels in the ground. This is about the political will to prioritize housing and prioritize the stated actions in the Housing TO Action Plan.
I will aggressively support the following priority actions from the Housing TO Action plan:
- Action 5b states, “Developing a dedicated allocation of the 40,000 new affordable rental and supportive homes approvals over the next 10 years to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples through collaboration with housing providers and on sites suitable for developing culturally appropriate affordable rental and supportive housing.” p. 30
- Action 12a states, “Increase availability of supportive housing by: Completing Council’s capital plan to provide an additional 1,000 shelter beds and shift all future investments toward developing permanent housing including supporting Council’s target of 18,000 supportive homes approvals over 10 years.” p. 39
- Action 19 states, “Establish a target of a minimum of 25% of the 40,000 new affordable rental and supportive homes approvals to women and girls including female-led households.” p. 44
- Action 49b states, “Create a new approvals stream through the Open Door Affordable Housing Program that prioritizes suitable applications from and incentives to nonprofit and co-op housing providers, including faith-based organizations, to deliver increased affordable and supportive housing outcomes.” p. 89
- Action 56 states, “[Request] The federal and provincial governments to commit to a multi-year capital and operating investment plan that supports the City and non-profit, and private housing providers in achieving 20,000 new affordable rental and supportive housing approvals.” p. 90
4. Implement aggressive zoning reform. Toronto needs zoning reform to meet the needs of its citizens. This includes inclusionary zoning and easing up residential zoning to include mixed use for working and living. This strategy will allow Torontonians who run businesses out of their homes to do so officially. Again, these are mentioned in the Housing TO action plan, but they require aggressive implementation immediately, not in the future.
- Action 53 states, “Implement Inclusionary Zoning to ensure new housing opportunities are targeted to low and moderate-income households, and affordability is provided long-term. Inclusionary Zoning would require new residential developments to include affordable housing units, creating mixed-income housing. City incentives and/or funding could also be layered on to Section 37 and Inclusionary Zoning requirements to achieve deeper or longer affordability, or more affordable units.” p. 89
- Under “Future Actions” for Ensure Well-Maintained and Secure Homes for Renters, the plan states, “Work is also underway to review options to improve the licensing and regulation of multi-tenant houses and establish city-wide zoning permissions for multi-tenant homes”. p. 66
5. Bolster support for Community Land Trusts (CLTs), and strengthen their role in growth and intensification targets in order to ensure that there are more options for affordable housing in the city. CLTs can fully protect neighbourhoods with policy, to inhibit cultural erosion due to decreased developer restrictions and ensure cultural planning to protect the communities from erasure and displacement.
6. Bolster support for Housing Cooperatives to enhance the ability for Torontonians to age in place and for a mix of people with varied levels of income to live affordably in the City. Housing cooperatives will also help to address concerns around rent evictions as renters are included in decision making. Coops can also create a sense of community and well being that contributes to improved mental health. Further, these units allow surplus financial gains to be utilized for future improvements of the building/maintenance costs which will rise over time.
7. Enact the 22 recommendations of the Ombudsman Toronto Investigation Report: Investigation into the City’s Clearing of Encampments in 2021 dated March 24, 2023. Page 2 of the report states, “The City owes a particularly high duty of fairness to those living in encampments. Our investigation found that the City chose expediency over the needs of the individual: its focus on enforcement meant that it discounted the experiences of and impact on individuals in encampments. As a result, the City caused undue confusion and harm. The overall result was significant unfairness in how the City planned, engaged stakeholders, and communicated about the encampment clearings. The City showed a lack of commitment to honouring its pledge to a human rights approach and to serving this vulnerable population with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The recommendations have been provided with a compassionate, human rights approach. What Toronto needs is the political will to act on them, and report back to the Ombudsman by the requested date of June 30, 2023.