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EDITORIAL: The market has no moral compass (Election Special 2018)

May 29th, 2018 · 4 Comments

What’s lost in the provincial debate over whether minimum wage should be $14 or $15 an hour is an accompanying discussion of what full-time employment at minimum wage actually pays for. It’s a glaring omission when you consider that many people spent the biggest portion of their money on a place to call home.

The cost to keep a roof over one’s head is eating more and more of one’s paycheque, and a buck or two more an hour won’t make much of a difference. The increasingly stark juxtaposition of the cost of renting a dwelling and average wages is worth examining, particularly because all four provincial parties are promising the voting public the world.

The lack of affordable housing is a growing problem across the province, but even more so in Toronto. Given how much renters pay each month relative to their incomes, they cannot endure a single hiccup in their income stream or they will be out on the street. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) recently released Where Will We Live? Ontario’s Affordable Renting Housing Crisis, which demonstrates that 46.9 per cent of Toronto’s renter households are spending 30 per cent or more of their income on rental costs. That means a tenant would have to earn at least $24 per hour to afford the average rent in the Greater Toronto Area.

(The 30 per cent margin of income is a widely-used benchmark to determine if rent is in fact affordable. It also provides a window into whether or not there will be enough left over for a decent quality of life after the rent gets paid.)

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a one-bedroom condominium goes for $1,800 and a one-bedroom apartment for $1,200. But these averages reflect existing rents in occupied dwellings instead of what is on the market, given a landlord’s ability to spike the rent once they have a vacancy, and do not reflect local rates in places like the Annex, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

According to ACTO, a renter here would need to earn $30 per hour in order to afford rent. At $14 an hour, one would to have to log 86 hours a week, which is equivalent to over two full-time jobs!

The federal government has committed $40 billion to a national housing strategy aimed at lifting 530,000 families out of unaffordable or substandard housing. Where is the province on this? The province needs a matching program — adding another dollar or two to minimum wage will not solve the problem.

Westbank Projects Corp.’s redevelopment of the former Honest Ed’s site is a local example of a developer identifying and filling a need for more rental units. They even made 10 per cent of the 850 units affordable, and included one, two, and three bedroom units in the affordable mix. But this will hardly meet all the rental needs in Toronto, where the vacancy rate for one bedroom apartments is about one per cent.

The peace of mind afforded by having a roof over one’s head is incalculable. When provincial candidates come knocking at your door, perhaps you’ll consider asking them what they plan to do about it.



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Tags: Annex · Editorial

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