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Opinion

A bold plan to address housing and homelessness in Toronto

Published on 22/09/2020

We are on the cusp of big, bold, brave action to address housing and homelessness in Toronto.

A one-billion-dollar plan calls for 3,000 new permanent, affordable homes, and funding to assist 2,000 of these residents with the supports required to maintain stable housing. It’s a plan that would mean a path out of homelessness for those who have had to rely on the shelter system as long-term housing.

Developed by Toronto Mayor John Tory and Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão together with the community sector, the COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan calls on the provincial and federal governments to partner with the city to accelerate efforts across all governments to create new affordable housing for everyone.

All orders of government have taken great steps to extend support to those who are most in need during this pandemic. The initial emergency measures have shown how quickly, and effectively, they can work together. And just this week, the federal government announced additional funding to create new affordable housing and support across Canada through its Rapid Housing Initiative, which will go a long way in answering Toronto’s call.

Toronto’s recovery plan won’t come cheap, and acknowledges the substantial financial pressures that all governments now face and the supports already provided. But it is an important long-term investment in a long-term solution. Moving 3,000 people out of shelters and into permanent housing with support could mean a cost savings of up to $180 million per year. And this doesn’t include the savings in reduced costs to the healthcare, long-term care, and justice systems when people find permanent housing.

Together with organizations and individuals working with housing and homelessness, and with those directly affected by this pandemic, Maytree and United Way Greater Toronto collaborated with the City of Toronto to identify what needs to be done. Our two policy papers, “Housing & People Action Plan” and “COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy,” outlined a focused set of actions and policy options for governments to consider in their response to the pandemic for a sustainable recovery.

What both papers highlight — and what we’ve heard from community organizations and individuals directly affected by the pandemic — is the need to invest in housing and supports to decrease the volume and duration of need for emergency shelters.

Organizations that provide a range of emergency, shelter and housing supports — like The 519, Dixon Hall, YWCA, COSTI, and Na-me-res — have described how COVID-19 has compounded the many challenges people experiencing homelessness already faced prior to the pandemic, creating new risks and vulnerabilities. This is especially true for women in abusive situations, and transgender, Black and Indigenous individuals.

The pandemic has made the issue of homelessness unignorable. Without access to safe, secure, and affordable housing, we will continue to leave a large number of Toronto’s residents vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.

By acting now and by moving quickly, the federal and provincial governments can become important partners in closing the existing gaps and realizing the right to housing for everyone.

Originally published as an op-ed in the Toronto Star.

Summary

By acting now and by moving quickly, the federal and provincial governments can become important partners in closing the existing gaps and realizing the right to housing for everyone.

Topic(s)

Cities and communities, Housing and homelessness, Human rights