Housing Stability Backgrounder
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Stable housing enables people to build a future. Without safe, secure adequate and affordable housing, resident access to education, employment, and services is strained, and relationships with communities and places are broken. Housing is a precondition for living with dignity and enjoying a good quality of life.
Community advocates, housing stakeholders, and Toronto residents have called for the City to work in partnership with federal and provincial governments to act on housing by accelerating new construction and creating more rental opportunities of all types across Toronto, allocating more financial support to families and individuals to pay rent and stay housed, supporting strong partnerships between governments, and increasing efforts to find and implement solutions by engaging with the leadership of local communities.
The City of Toronto plays multiple administrative, funding, regulatory and advocacy roles with respect to housing. It is responsible for administering and funding Toronto’s social housing system of 95,000 units, including 70,000 Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) units. Through the Mayor’s Task Force to improve the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCH) and Tenants First, the City’s action plan to restructure the operations, governance of funding of TCH, reforms are underway to enhance the experience of tenants living in social housing.
The City’s 10 year affordable housing action plan Housing Opportunities Toronto: An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 (HOT) as well as the Open Door Affordable Housing Program are in place to increase the supply of affordable housing units as the demand continues to rise. The City has undertaken initiatives to address the quality of rental housing through the creation of the RentSafeTO program for rental apartment buildings and updating operating standards for multi-tenant houses. A new investment of $28.1 million is being made in 2018 to address increasing shelter demand by expanding the number of sites and beds within the system.
Despite all of these efforts, finding and maintaining an affordable place to live in Toronto remains challenging for many. Forty-six percent (46%) of Toronto renter households spend more than 30% of their income on rent. As market rents continue to rise in Toronto, securing housing without sacrificing other basic needs such as food, clothing, and transportation is becoming an increasingly unachievable dream for individuals and families with low income. Emergency shelter use stays high, operating at near capacity with over 5,250 people sleeping in shelters or outdoors each night, including women, children, and youth. In 2017, 94 homeless people died in Toronto. Many of the 110,000 Torontonians who are residents of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) live in units that require repair, and many tenants do not have access to the services and supports that they need. The waiting lists for social housing continues to grow, as demand increases.
A poverty reduction strategy for Torontonians must include an affordable housing action plan that increases the supply of stable and affordable housing across the housing continuum, including: emergency shelter, transitional housing, supportive housing, special-needs housing, multi-tenant rooming housing, social housing, and affordable housing in the private market.
City of Toronto Initiatives
Housing Opportunities Toronto: An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 (HOT) directs the City’s housing initiatives. The HOT Action Plan sets targets for the City to create 1,000 new affordable rental homes and 400 new affordable ownership homes per year. In 2017, the City oversaw 4,000 affordable homes being built or repaired using federal, provincial, and City investments and exceeded its target by approving 1,200 new affordable rental homes.
In 2016, Toronto City Council approved the Open Door Affordable Housing Program to accelerate affordable housing construction. The Open Door Affordable Housing Program provides housing allowances and leverages federal and provincial funding, fast-tracks planning approvals, and activates surplus public land. In the same year, a new regulatory and licensing strategy for multi-tenant rooming housing intervened on the precariousness of housing conditions frequently occupied by newcomers, seniors, students, and people with low income.
The City uses its planning tools to maintain existing affordably priced housing in the City as well as secure new housing through Official Plan policies. Over the past eight years, the City has secured the construction of close to 1,800 replacement and new rental units and secured the ongoing rental tenure of over 8,200 existing rental units. Additionally, on average, 16 per cent of Section 37 financial contributions have been secured for affordable housing, including upgrades to TCH properties.
Reforming TCH is a top priority within housing stability initiatives at the City. In 2017, Council approved the implementation plan for the first phase of restructuring the operation, governance, and funding of TCH, called Tenants First. Tenants First is a long-term plan that is focused on supporting TCH as a social housing landlord, where buildings are in a good state of repair, tenants are connected to appropriate services, and they are active participants in their communities.
- The first phase of Tenants First focused on creating adequate funding for a new Seniors Housing and Services entity that is directly accountable to Council and responsible for the management of 83 seniors-designated buildings in TCH.
- Phase two of Tenants First, adopted by Council in January 2018, set up a process to transfer the ownership and operation of TCH’s Agency Houses and Rooming Houses to qualified non-profit housing operators with expertise in providing for vulnerable tenants, including people with a history of homelessness. It transferred the balance of TCH’s scattered portfolio to non-profit housing providers, co-ops and community land trusts. Further, Tenants First will implement an interim process to appoint Tenant Directors to the TCH Board, ensuring a tenant voice in the governance of TCH.
In 2013, Council approved the Housing Stability Service Plan 2014-2019 which outlines a number of key actions underway to begin transformation of the housing stability system to address homelessness and improves services.
Demand for services to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness continues to rise, driven by increasingly scarce affordable housing, low-incomes, lack of supportive housing, increasing numbers of refugee claimants, as well as Toronto’s increasing overall population growth.
As a result of this increasing demand, the City has responded by adding more than 1400 shelter beds to the system, a 30% increase, as well as opening eight Winter Respite Service locations.
Through the Shelter Infrastructure Plan, the City has approved funding for the creation of more than 1,000 additional shelter beds in the next three years.
In addition to expanding shelter system capacity, the City is working to change the way shelters operate with a new service model that includes housing-focused case management supports and increased access to health and other social services.
While it is critically important to ensure we maintain an adequate emergency shelter system to respond to demand, it is not the only solution. To make progress in reducing homeless, it is also critically important to focus on providing services to help people keep their housing and avoid homelessness through both prevention and housing stabilization services. The City is currently implementing the recent provincial commitment of $90 million in Home for Good funding for Toronto which will create new housing with supports for up to 2,000 people
A new housing stability service plan for the next five years will be developed in 2019 in alignment with the strategic direction of the new HOT Plan and through engagement with City Divisions and community partners, including the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness. The new service plan will build on existing efforts, while including new and emerging opportunities to partner with the federal and provincial governments, and other community stakeholders to continue to improve the housing stability service system.
On March 28, 2017, Toronto City Council approved a new regulatory bylaw for approximately 3,500 apartment buildings in Toronto. The bylaw includes requirements for building owners such as annual registration, developing key maintenance plans, having a notification board for tenants and using licensed contractors. The bylaw is also part of a new enforcement program called RentSafeTO which focuses on the regular and proactive inspection of apartment buildings to ensure that tenants have a clean, safe and secure place to live. As of December 31, 2017, 3,083 buildings have registered with the City of Toronto and staff completed high level inspections of all apartment buildings. Properties that scored low during the inspections, will be subject to comprehensive audits in 2018.
Poverty Reduction Strategy: 2018 plans
In 2018, the City will address the quality of rental housing through the continued implementation of RentSafeTO, a bylaw and pro-active enforcement program focused on ensuring that minimum standards are met in rental apartment buildings across Toronto.
The City will continue to pursue its annual targets of creating 1,000 new affordable rental and 400 new affordable ownership homes. New affordable rental homes will be approved through the second annual Open Door Affordable Housing Program Call for Applications. Federal, provincial, and City investments will be dedicated to new supportive homes for people living on low income.
Funding of $160 million requested by TCH was recently approved in the 2018 Budget. This funding will enable TCH to address its state of good repair backlog and prevent permanent unit closures. City staff will report back in 2019 on a permanent funding model for TCH.