Toronto City Council caught up with hundreds of other Canadian and US cities earlier today and adopted a 10-year affordable housing plan called Housing Opportunities Toronto. Overall, the plan is projected to cost $483.7 million and is expected to provide practical support to 257,700 households. The Wellesley Institute launched our Blueprint to End Homelessness in 2006, and we have worked with our partners to encourage the City of Toronto to adopt a housing plan. More than 300 US cities have housing plans, plus a growing number of Canadian cities (including Calgary). An important feature of the Toronto HOT plan is a Charter that promises: “All residents should have a safe, secure, affordable and well-maintained home from which to realize their full potential.” Adopting a rights-based approach to housing is an important step forward for Toronto City Council.
Mayor David Miller thanked Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, chair of the Affordable Housing Committee of Toronto City Council as the plan was passed. The new HOT plan had near-unanimous support, with only Councillors Rob Ford and Case Ootes voting against affordable homes for Torontonians.
One practical measure that Toronto can take right away to increase the supply of affordable homes is a comprehensive inclusionary housing policy. Last year, the Wellesley Institute co-sponsored an international forum in Toronto on inclusionary housing practices that are widely used thorughout the United States. We are continuing to work, with our community partners, at the local and provincial levels to require that all new developments include a fair share of affordable housing.
At the national level, most developed countries (including Britain, Australia and most recently, the Obama administration in the US) have national housing plans, but Canada’s federal government doesn’t have a comprehensive, co-ordinated and fully funded national housing plan. At the provincial level, a number of provinces (most recently, Alberta) have their own housing plans, but Ontario is still in the midst of consultations to develop a provincial strategy. The Wellesley Institute is working with our partners in the Housing Network of Ontario to ensure that the provincial plan is built from the community up.
When Toronto’s draft HOT plan was being considered by the City’s Affordable Housing Committee, the Wellesley Institute welcomed the initiative, but called for city councillors to review the targets. Overall, the city’s current targets fall well short of any realistic estimate of the affordable housing needs of the hundreds of thousands of Torontonians who are precariously housed. Members of the Affordable Housing Committee adopted the Wellesley Institute’s concerns and called for staff to review the targets in light of a deep and persistent affordable housing crisis in Toronto. Specific targets in the HOT plan include 10,700 new supportive homes for people with special needs; rent supplements for 70,000 households; repairs to 120,000 households; new affordable homes for 10,000 households; and support for 47,000 owner households.