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FORUM: Addressing homelessness and housing challenges in Toronto (Provincial Election 2022)

May 24th, 2022 · No Comments

Province finally steps in with $27 million

By Mike Layton

On any given night in Toronto, close to 10,000 people are experiencing homelessness, and the provincial budget announced on April 28 did nothing to help the problem.

Doug Ford’s election budget offered little to help municipalities address the housing crisis and left them on the hook for operating funds, despite their repeated calls for action and assistance. 

The City of Toronto has a homelessness crisis—one that has only worsened over the last two years through the pandemic and is getting worse with the exponentially rising costs of housing in Toronto. 

Governments on all levels have failed to invest in creating and operating affordable and supportive housing.

There are 80,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing. 

Shelters are full every night and encampments have become a widespread reality across Toronto as a preferred method of housing. 

Pandemic emergency shelters, intended to be temporary, are being used long-term in the absence of alternatives, and the average number of deaths of people experiencing homelessness increased from 2.8 per week in 2020 to 4.2 in 2021. 

Despite all this troubling data, the provincial government released an initial budget on April 28 that failed to provide funding for much-needed housing initiatives and homelessness intervention. 

On May 4, with a report set to come before executive committee recommending that council reiterate our request for funding to the province, it was announced that the city had secured $27 million from the province. 

This funding is required for the city to move people into the new, supportive, permanent housing we are creating, while maintaining our existing base shelter system for short-term emergency use, including services related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Toronto is ready and willing to build supportive, affordable housing now. 

We have set clear targets and ambitious goals through the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan to increase the supply of affordable rental and supportive housing to help Toronto’s most vulnerable and marginalized residents, and we have made significant progress towards achieving these goals on our own.

Since early 2020, the city has moved more than 10,000 individuals previously experiencing chronic homelessness into permanent housing, opened approximately 770 new supportive homes, and expanded rental support programs like Rent Bank to help keep people in their homes. 

We know that providing good quality, safe, affordable housing is the right way to help people out of chronic homelessness. 

Not only is it the compassionate, obvious option to improve the health, social, and economic status of an individual, but it is also the most economical solution for the city. 

The average cost of operating a single shelter bed is $40,000 a year—and that number has nearly doubled during the pandemic. 

Additionally, individuals experiencing homelessness are hospitalized up to five times more often than the general public, and for much longer, with an average monthly cost of more than $12,000 per person. Meanwhile, the cost of providing supportive housing is estimated to be, on average, $2000 per month, per person (or $24,000 annually). 

Permanent, affordable, and supportive housing means significant cost savings for all levels of government through reduced use of these services.

While we have made great strides in achieving our housing goals as a city and have more capital funding from federal agreements, we cannot do this on our own. 

Addressing the homelessness and housing challenges that Toronto is facing requires significant investment from all levels of government, including operating support from the province, a request that had remained outstanding for years. 

The recent funding announcement, while long overdue, is a welcome commitment that will assist us in our goal to house all residents and provide them with the stability they need to improve their lives.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11, University–Rosedale.


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