affordable housing toronto

Toronto wants to build 3,000 affordable homes because shelters are now too expensive

The City of Toronto just released an appeal to the provincial and federal governments asking for help building and fast-tracking 3,000 new affordable homes in the city over the next two years for homeless, vulnerable and marginalized residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request, which the city is calling "an urgent appeal," asks the other levels of government to fund 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 secure housing and pay rent.

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

And while these investments would support the council-approved HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan aimed at helping more than 340,000 households in Toronto over the next 10 years, they would also help the city mitigate the increasing costs of operating shelter beds in a pandemic. 

While the average cost to operate a shelter bed in Toronto was more than $3,000 per month pre-COVID-19, the city says that cost has now doubled as a result of the increased space and protective resources required amid 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," reads a statement from the city

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

The city says the investments will also help to create employment opportunities at a critical time as every $1 million invested in housing creates approximately 10 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

Toronto's 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," and it is supported by two policy papers that were prepared with input from a cross-section of housing and homelessness stakeholders for the Mayor's COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. 

"We have been hearing consistently from front-line United Way-funded agencies in communities across the GTA: without safe, secure housing, people too often remain trapped in a cycle of poverty," said President and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto Daniele Zanotti in a statement.

"COVID-19 has revealed the inequity that exists in our region – home to great prosperity, and yet a place where too many struggle to find shelter," she continued. 

"By coming together across sectors — health, community services, shelter providers and housing providers, different levels of government, and a range of funders – and bringing forward voices from the Black and Indigenous community, we can take an integrated approach to provide promise of real solutions to homelessness."

Lead photo by

Franklin McKay

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