Publications, opinions, and speeches


The HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan will only be successful if it positively impacts the daily life of the most vulnerable people in Toronto

Published on 10/12/2019

Deputation to the City of Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee regarding the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.

December 10, 2019

Hello, my name is Elizabeth McIsaac. I’m the president of Maytree, a private foundation dedicated to creating solutions to poverty. At Maytree, we believe the most enduring way to fix the systems that create poverty is to safeguard economic and social rights for all people living in Canada.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. Throughout the process of creating the HousingTO Action Plan, the City has been open to working with others, to hearing from Toronto residents and housing advocates. We have worked hard to support the City in this process, as have others who are in this room today. We believe that this plan has benefitted greatly from the openness that the City has shown.

The City has taken a vital step by making the human right to housing the foundation of this housing plan. Enshrining this right in the Housing Charter sends an important message that all that follows must recognize this right, and, in so doing, respect the inherent dignity of each and every person in Toronto.

This is a robust plan with lots of promise. Our challenge now is to implement it effectively, steadfastly, and to ensure that its impacts are felt in the daily lives of Toronto’s residents, especially those who are in greatest need.

First, as the plan indicates, the City must commit to progressive realization of the right to housing. We must move forward. We must know that we are moving forward. To do this, we need to be able to measure our progress, with targets set in the near- and medium-term, as well as at the end of 10 years. We need strong mechanisms to hold the City to account for its progress, as well as do the softer work of shepherding the plan into action. To this end, an independent Housing Commissioner should be established at the outset, with the powers and scope needed to influence ongoing work.

Second, a human rights approach means that the City must prioritize those in greatest need. The plan’s explicit focus on women and girls, seniors, Indigenous people, and Toronto Community Housing residents is welcome. It can do more. The City must also prioritize eliminating homelessness. It must meet emergency needs through the shelter system and support services. And it must work to move people into decent quality, secure, affordable homes, and as quickly as possible.

Third, the City must dedicate the maximum available resources to housing. A potential vacancy tax and the recently announced increase to the City Building Fund are just two examples of how the City can be innovative and maximize all of the tools at its disposal. The City must also ensure that public funds first and foremost advance the public good. The City recently made the right decision to make investment in Toronto Community Housing consistent and predictable. This plan, too, needs that stability, that certainty.

While the City might be right to expect support from other orders of government, it must also set itself an independent course of action – and a plan for if the province and federal government fail to pay a share. Inaction is not an option. Toronto must act. Toronto must invest.

With this plan, our city will take a bold step. Doing the right thing takes courage. We ask you to be courageous.

Finally, we ask you to remember that all of this begins and ends with people. This plan will be successful only if it positively impacts the daily life of the most vulnerable people in Toronto. The City has worked to include the voices of people with lived experience of housing need in the making of this plan. It doesn’t end here. Lived experts must continue to inform the development, implementation and monitoring of all of that follows.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today. We look forward to continuing to support this process in any way we can.


Housing and homelessness, Human rights


Deputation to the City of Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee regarding the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan