Platform: The Gomberg for Mayor Platform Plank on Housing and the Homeless

The Gomberg for Mayor platform plank on Housing and the Homeless

A home for all.

Safe, secure and affordable housing is a basic human need. Without it, people do not live long or healthy lives. In Toronto, 100,000 tenant households pay over 50% of their income on rent, leaving very little to cover food and other needs. With a vacancy rate of less than 1% it is no wonder the number of homeless people has reached unprecedented levels in Toronto. More and more people live on the streets and use shelters. Pressure on drop-in centres, food banks and other emergency services is constantly increasing. Evictions are on the rise and waiting lists for social and supportive housing continue to get longer.

A homeless person is someone who does not have legal possession of their own adequate premises. “Homelessness” is a broad term which includes those who are ‘visible’ on the streets or staying in hostels; the ‘hidden’ homeless who live in illegal or temporary accommodation; and those whose situation places them in a very real risk of becoming homeless.

Increasing poverty and cutbacks on social spending from the three levels of government (Federal, Provincial, Municipal) have contributed to a steady decrease in affordable housing. Consider the results for Toronto:

  • There are 60,000 homeless people in Toronto.
  • 2,000 of those sleep on the streets, in ravines, or under bridges.
  • 26,000 individuals used hostels in 1996, about 3,200 on any given night (much more in winter).
  • Families accounted for 46% of people using hostels in 1996.
  • The fastest growing groups using hostels are youth under 18 and families with children.
  • Of the 30,000 people who will use the homeless shelter system this year, 6,000 will be children.
  • At least 2 homeless people die every week.
  • 100,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing.
  • More than a third of applicants on the waiting list have incomes less than $800 per month.

In short, the housing crisis is manifesting itself as a homelessness crisis, and current municipal leadership has been ineffective in dealing with the problem. In fact, by shutting down existing shelters and supporting aggressive policing targeted at homeless people, the situation is only getting worse.

As Mayor, I would take the following actions:

1. With help from the federal and provincial governments, ensure a minimum of 6,000 low-cost social housing units be built over the next 3 years. One type would be co-operative housing, the other concierge housing (transitional, special needs, or alternative to co-op housing). Rather than accept the province handing all social housing over to the municipalities as of Jan. 1, 2001, the City of Toronto must fight for provincial funding for social housing construction.

2. Enact a Housing First Policy for all vacant city property, and ensure that at least 25% of all new rental construction be low-income housing.

3. Create a minimum of 1,000 new emergency hostel beds. Open up the armories for emergency shelter beds.

4. Demand the Provincial government stop the sale and deregulation of social housing, restore the Rental Housing Protection Act, fair rent controls, and tenant legal rights, and freeze rents.

5. Implement fair tax reforms for tenants, who pay 3 times the amount of property taxes through rent compared to homeowners.

6. Work with other municipalities and through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, demand from the Federal government a National Housing Strategy with adequate funding. No funding, no strategy.

7. End aggressive police targeting of homeless people, especially in city parks. Allow people to take shelter in city parks, including sleeping and putting up tents or structures, until there is adequate housing or shelter, as defined by the homeless.