Housing affordability is a key concern for Toronto residents and other Canadian urban centres. Low vacancy rates, lack of purpose-built affordable rental homes, inflation, wages that have not kept pace with the increased cost of living and the financialization of housing have resulted in many low-income residents, including Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving groups, struggling to find and maintain safe, secure and affordable homes. These conditions have resulted in increased rates of poverty, homelessness and evictions.
The City’s targets in the HousingTO Action Plan include:
- approving 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes;
- preserving and improving the existing rental supply;
- ending chronic homelessness; and
- helping renters to maintain their homes.
The City has identified that new and enhanced investments and policy tools are needed from all orders of government, including more grant funding and low-interest financing options from the National Housing Strategy programs, commensurate to the cost of building in Toronto. Operating funding from the provincial government is also urgently needed to create supportive housing (i.e. deeply-affordable homes with access to support services such as wrap-around social and health supports.
In October 2022, the Ontario government introduced Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022. If passed, this legislation would exempt development charges payable by developers for “housing services” and inclusionary zoning units. The proposed removal of “housing services” from the list of eligible development charges would result in an estimated $130 million per year in anticipated lost revenues and would impact the City’s ability to meet the 40,000 affordable rental approval target outlined in the HousingTO Action Plan and continue to deliver the Open Door, Housing Now and Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) programs.
Creating New Affordable and Supportive Homes
- The City is delivering new affordable and supportive homes through the Open Door Affordable Housing Program, the Housing Now Initiative, the Toronto Modular Housing Initiative, and the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). Apart from the federal RHI program, these other programs are City-funded from development charges ‘housing services’ revenues. Bill 23 would eliminate these revenues, putting future delivery of these programs and implementation of the City’s HousingTO Plan at risk.
- The Housing Now Initiative is a City lands program which to date includes 21 City-owned sites near transit, dedicated to delivering new affordable rental homes within mixed-income, mixed-use and complete communities. The City has dedicated over $1.3 billion in land value, financial incentives, and staffing resources to support the program, and has achieved over 50% of its ten-year 10,000 affordable homes approval target in less than three years.
- The Concept 2 Keys (C2K) office was launched in 2020 with a Priority Development Review Stream to prioritize and expedite affordable housing project approvals.
- Council approved over 23,000 affordable rental and supportive homes through the HousingTO Plan – with about 14,000 of these ‘active’ in the development pipeline. However, macroeconomic pressures including rising construction costs, supply chain disruptions, labour market shortages and rising interest rates could significantly impact the feasibility and delivery of projects.
Preserving Existing Purpose-built Rental Homes and Supporting Renters
- Protecting the existing stock of permanent affordable and mid-range rental housing across the city and addressing illegitimate evictions is critical to preventing homelessness and improving housing stability for residents.
- In October 2021, City Council approved the MURA program (PH28.3) to remove properties from the speculative housing market and create permanently-affordable rental homes, improve housing stability for current and future tenants, improve the physical conditions of buildings, increase capacity in the non-profit and Indigenous housing sectors, and ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the homes. To date, the City has committed $20 million under the program.
Background & Context
- Toronto’s current housing and homelessness challenges include:
- Over 8,200 people experiencing homelessness each night, with more than 70% experiencing chronic homelessness;
- Over 80,000 people on the Social Housing Waiting List;
- For the 1,160,890 private households in Toronto (as of 2021), 602,915 households or 52% own their home, while 557,975 or 48% rent their home;
- About 220,490 renter households (40% of all renter households) experienced affordability issues (2021 Census);
- Rent increased by 18% year-over-year; and
- Toronto’s current rental vacancy rate is below 2%.
- Intergovernmental action and collaboration, including at the regional level, is required to increase new affordable and supportive home supply including:
- For private land, supporting the implementation of inclusionary zoning;
- For public lands, providing grants and financing for municipal-led efforts such as the Housing Now Initiative;
- Alignment of transit funding with amended National Housing Strategy programs, including sufficient grant funding and financing; and
- Leveraging and aligning of government investment programs to support affordable housing, transit, equity and climate action at the municipal level.
- In 2021 and 2022, the City secured approximately $440 million in capital funding through Rapid Housing Initiative (Phase 1 and 2) and approximately $42 million ($15 million in 2021 and $27 million in 2022) in support services funding from the Province. This enabled the City to exceed its 24-Month Plan targets (PH19.11) and be on track to create over 3,000 new housing opportunities including over 2,000 new supportive homes, and 1,000 additional new Canada-Ontario Housing Benefits to help households to secure rental housing. As part of these efforts, the City has partnered with Toronto Community Housing Corporation to activate 1,000 vacant units and layer services to support people to exit homelessness.
- To ensure continuity of supports for people who been moved into these new homes, an ongoing commitment from the Provincial government of $48 million per year (beginning in 2023) is needed for the 2,000 supportive housing opportunities created through the 24-Month Plan.
- City Council has requested the federal and provincial governments support the City’s 2023-2024 Housing Recovery and Resilience Plan (EX32.6) to deliver 2,500 supportive housing opportunities and 1,500 housing benefits (including the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit).
- In July, 2022, Council approved a new Renovictions Policy and Regulatory Framework (PH35.18) to support renters and maintain Toronto’s affordable and mid-range rental stock. Key actions include:
- Establishing a ‘Housing At-Risk Table’ to prevent the loss of affordable rental housing and implement the future renovictions by-law;
- Developing inter-divisional strategic compliance, coordination and enforcement of City programs;
- Conducting outreach to identify potential illegitimate eviction cases, and education/support on complaints process; and
- Coordination of City programs to support renters.
Truth, Justice & Reconciliation
The City and Indigenous partners have co-developed a plan for 5,200 ‘for Indigenous by Indigenous’ new affordable and supportive homes by 2030 with federal and provincial support.
- In 2021:
- City Council established a Memorandum of Understanding with Miziwe Biik Development Corporation and approved approximately $265.8 million in Open Door Program incentives to advance the 5,200 target.
- The City allocated approximately $36.1 million (about 27 per cent) of the $132 million Phase Two Rapid Housing Initiative capital funding allocation to support the creation of affordable homes by Indigenous organizations.
- Starting in 2021, 20 per cent of grant funding available through the annual Open Door Program Call for Application is set-aside for Indigenous-led housing development projects. The results of this call were adopted by City Council and approx. $2.9 million (or 29 per cent of available funding) was approved for two Indigenous-led projects (PH34.8).
- Starting in 2021, 20 per cent of the grants funding available through the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program is allocated to supporting acquisitions by Indigenous housing organizations for Indigenous peoples.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Increasing the supply of affordable and supportive homes; preserving the existing stock of affordable, mid-range and market rental homes; and addressing illegitimate evictions and renovictions are critical to preventing homelessness and improving housing stability for residents.
These actions also help Indigenous Peoples, and Black and other racialized people, seniors, women and 2SLGBTQ+ persons and other equity-deserving groups to access and maintain safe, healthy and adequate homes.
The City has a target of allocating 25 per cent of its new affordable and supportive housing approvals (10,000 homes by 2030) to low-income women, girls and female-led households. Further, the City has committed to dedicating 25 per cent of the new homes created through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative program to women and girls experiencing homelessness.
Director, Policy & Strategy, Housing Secretariat