Today, City Council approved the 24-Month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan – Update. The update was provided in response to direction from the Planning and Housing Committee earlier this month to review any programs, funding sources, and legislative tools available to the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, to increase the supply of housing in the next several weeks, particularly housing suitable for those living outside in encampments or in the shelter system.
The report outlines how the City can accelerate 150 new supportive housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness within eight to 10 weeks through existing operating funding. It also outlines that a further 510 housing opportunities could be created within 10 to 12 weeks if there is an immediate commitment of $12.24 million annually from the federal and provincial governments for operating funding. The $12.24 million per year is part of the request previously made to the other orders of government for $48 million in annual operating funding for the 2,000 supportive homes, as part of the 24-month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Plan.
The new and accelerated opportunities could be delivered through a combination of vacant Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) units plus new acquisitions and renovations. The City has sufficient operating funding for 150 new homes for one year. This operating funding will provide the support services necessary to assist those living outside in encampments or inside in shelters to successfully move into housing. City funding will include the use of up to $47 million from the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration’s capital budget and approximately $3.5 million in Open Door incentives to support these housing efforts. The additional $12.24 million in annual operating funding is needed immediately from the other orders of government to support the implementation of the remaining 510 supportive housing units.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has moved quickly to create new affordable rental and supportive housing options for people experiencing homelessness. In total, almost 2,000 new permanent housing opportunities were created between March and December. This includes an initial 100 modular supportive homes, more than 350 new homes through the Open Door program and more than 1,500 households (2,850 people) who were assisted to move from shelter into housing through a combination of rent-geared-to-income units and housing allowances.
The City is also already working on creating 588 new affordable rental homes that are planned to be opened before the end of next year. These affordable homes could be used to create supportive housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness with a further commitment of $14 million annually in operating funding from the federal and provincial governments.
The City acknowledges and is thankful for the range of federal and provincial initiatives, as outlined in the report, that are already helping to address the city’s housing and homelessness challenges. However, ongoing operating funding and housing benefits are still required to fulfil the plan. As new affordable and supportive housing units become available, it is critical that the federal and provincial governments provide immediate and ongoing operating funding to support residents in these new homes. Ongoing operating supports remain the missing piece of the puzzle.
The current pandemic highlights both the urgency and the opportunity for all governments to make investments that will quickly provide housing options to successfully support vulnerable and marginalized residents while reducing long-term costs to all governments. Accommodating one person in a shelter costs more than $3,000 per month before COVID-19 and costs have more than doubled due to the extra space and other protective resources needed during the pandemic. Accommodating one person in permanent, supportive and affordable housing, such as a studio apartment, costs approximately $2,000 per month.
The actions outlined in the 24-Month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan – Update are part of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, a comprehensive blueprint to assist more than 341,000 people with a focus on creating permanent housing solutions.
“We are doing everything we can as a City government to help people have a safe place inside during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, City Council took action to open up even more supportive housing units for people. And with the help of the provincial and federal governments, we have a plan to create even more affordable, supportive housing and a path out of homelessness for more residents.”
– Mayor John Tory
“Now more than ever we are keenly aware of the connection between affordable housing and public health. People need to have access to a range of housing solutions, from supportive housing to affordable rental units, in order to protect their own health and the health of others. The time is now, and we must act.”
– Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Davenport), Planning and Housing Committee Chair
“The pandemic has demonstrated that access to safe, secure and affordable homes is essential to the health and well-being of our people and our communities. Expanding housing opportunities as quickly as possible will contribute significantly to our social and economic recovery from the pandemic. Therefore, it is critical that governments at all levels combine and accelerate their efforts to create new, affordable homes for everyone.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre)
“Our top priority must be to end chronic homelessness in our city. That means ensuring that people have access to a range of housing options, with wrap-around supports that meet different needs. But we can only achieve this through increased, immediate and long-term funding commitments from the Federal and Provincial Governments. Housing and health are interconnected, and the health of our city, our province, and our country depends on moving closer to a day when everyone has a safe and secure place to call home.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
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