Canada's Condominium Magazine

Social housing crisis — With a wait list of 181,000, what help is in sight for the proposed shut down of 1000 TCHC units?

The pending Rental Fairness Act attempts to protect the 1.2 million rental householders in Ontario. But there are 181,000 people on the social housing waiting lists in Toronto alone that apparently have no relief in sight — with Toronto’s plan to shut down another 1000 units.

The Ontario government may not be directly responsible for social housing, but to many social advocates, the omission of action on social housing is intolerable. Ontario choose to influence the actual real estate market, and the landlord/tenant relationship, but — so far — made no moves to relieve to more pressing issue of social housing.

 

The demolition of Regent Park.

 

There was mention of opening up Ontario-owned land for affordable housing, and the Rental Fairness act certainly will help ease tenant worries in general. There are risks of the new rules will discourage condo owners and landlords from renting. For instance, a condo owner may not want to rent to a tenant, knowing they cannot evict based on “owner occupancy.” This may interfere with buyer intentions of investor-oriented small condo owners who have, in the past, bought with the view of renting until they’re ready to sell. Existing owners may feel the urge to sell immediately, in this hot market, rather than rent.

 

 

1000 TCHC units closing down

Lost in all of these discussions — no doubt because it’s a big issue that has no easy solution — is social housing. Social housing may no longer be top of mind. It’s also very easy to “pass the buck.” Last week, ex-mayor of Toronto John Sewell challenged current mayor John Tory:

“I realize you can go out and beg money from them, and then when they don’t give it you can blame them. Spend your own money.”

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation, owned by the city as a not-for-profit, will carry forward with plans to close 1000 units in 2018 — simply because there is no money to fix them. Never mind building much needed new social housing to accommodate the massive waiting list, Toronto can’t even fix what it has. It’s so bad, they are compelled to shut them down for safety reasons. The waiting list just got a lot slower.

 

 

Although THCH has a $2.6 billion repair plan, there is not really any money to fund the plan. TCHC plans to spend $440 million next year, but actually only has an available $82 million. Toronto is looking to Ontario, and no doubt Ontario is looking to Ottawa. Like the subway, the actual funds might be years away without some genuine action and stewardship. Ottawa allocated $11 billion for housing (but spread over 11 years), but there is no hint on a release of funds, and likely won’t be until the end of this year.

 

 

With elections not that far off, there is already talk of solutions, but there is also a lot of “buck passing” with each level of government looking for help from another. The concept of closing down another 1000 units, as the waiting list grows, while waiting for funds to flow from somewhere, seems like nebulous planning.

What about private sector developers?

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell’s provocative suggestion that Toronto consider working with the private sector developers to build new social housing on available city land stands the test of common sense. He had previously executed a similar plan in Regent Park.

 

 

Will the Rental Fairness Act help with this backlog of people in need of social housing? Likely not for years to come, if at all. If the Act reduces inventory, overall inventory may drop for tenants, making it possible the social housing wait list will grow even further. Perhaps, in a few years, when Ontario and Toronto lands are actually under development for social housing, the situation may change. Then, the question remains, where is the money? TCHC has already shown a willingness to plan. Which level of government will step in to actually finance a plan?

 

 

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