Toronto Wants Federal-Provincial-City Effort To Create 3,000 Affordable Homes

Photo by Max Tereshchenko on Unsplash

TORONTO: The City of Toronto has issued the COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan — an urgent appeal to the federal and provincial governments to create 3,000 permanent, affordable homes, within the next 24 months, for homeless, vulnerable, and marginalized residents.

These investments will support the Council-approved HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan aimed at helping more than 340,000 households in Toronto over the next 10 years.

The 3,000 permanent, affordable homes would comprise 1,000 new permanent modular homes; 1,000 new permanent affordable rental homes created through acquisitions and shovel-ready construction projects; and new portable housing benefits that will assist 1,000 people to secure housing and pay rent.

The plan also calls for funding to assist 2,000 of these residents with the supports required to maintain stable housing, such as mental health services, substance abuse services, assistance with daily living activities for those with disabilities and senior services.

This fiscally and socially responsible housing recovery plan will provide safe, secure, and affordable housing options to reduce homelessness, reduce costs to all orders of government, and support economic recovery.

The average cost to operate a shelter bed in Toronto was more than $3,000 per month pre-COVID-19. This cost has now doubled as a result of the increased space and protective resources required by the pandemic. Moving 3,000 people out of shelters and into permanent housing with supports could provide a cost savings of up to $15 million per month ($180 million per year) assuming COVID-19 physical distancing standards remain in place for the foreseeable future.

These savings are further increased when considering the reduced costs to the healthcare, long-term care, and justice systems when people exit homelessness.

This plan will also help create much-needed employment opportunities, getting people back to work at this critical time as every $1 million invested in housing, create approximately 10 direct, indirect, and induced jobs.

The City acknowledges the substantial financial pressures that all governments now face and is thankful for the range of federal and provincial emergency response initiatives that are helping to address the increased housing and homelessness challenges caused by the pandemic.

The City’s Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan proposes to fast-track and expand initiatives under the National Housing Strategy and other existing federal and provincial funding programs, while also reiterating previous requests to the other orders of governments on the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.

The current pandemic highlights the urgency and the opportunity for all governments to make investments that will quickly provide innovative housing options to help manage the challenges associated with COVID-19 while creating solutions that will support people for decades to come.

As noted in the staff report, the funding request was developed based on significant staff work to determine what was required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while planning for a more resilient future.

It is also supported by two policy papers, the “Housing & People Action Plan” and the joint City-United Way Greater Toronto “COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy”.

Both of these documents were prepared with input from a crosssection of housing and homelessness stakeholders for the Mayor’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. They outline a focused set of actions for the next 12 months and beyond, as well as policy and program options for the federal and provincial governments to consider as they continue their response to the pandemic and plan for sustainable recovery.

In addition to identifying opportunities to leverage actions for more permanent solutions to homelessness, the Task Force advice on the COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy focused on specific actions needed over the next six to 12 months to strengthen effective shelter service delivery and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the shelter system.

An implementation plan specific to measures needed to protect homeless clients and to continue to provide shelter services safely while COVID-19 is a concern will be brought forward to the Economic and Community Development Committee and Council in October.

Last week, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) proposed a federal initiative and partnership to rapidly acquire and repurpose buildings as permanent, non-profit housing for
vulnerable Canadians.

The City’s two policy papers are being sent to Big City Mayor’s Caucus and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to further support and inform their efforts in addressing the critical issues of housing and homelessness during this time and as part of planning for economic and social recovery across Canada.

Mayor John Tory said: “Addressing the homelessness issue is a big priority for our city but we know we cannot do it alone. This call is for our Federal and Provincial governments to partner with us on housing to provide a real solution. COVID-19 has heightened the housing issue on so many fronts which means we must act now to create more permanent supportive housing solutions. Our plan is cost-effective and socially responsible and will address the continuing challenges when it comes to housing.”