The good and the gaps in Toronto’s Housing Implementation Plan

September 21, 2020

Nine months after making an historic commitment to realize the right to housing, the City of Toronto has released the very first details of how it intends to implement its 2020-2030 Housing Plan. Concrete action to increase the supply of affordable housing stock is needed now more than ever – in particular for low-income and racialized communities across the city – and the City’s Implementation Plan couldn’t come at a better time. However, while this plan is a good next step to realize its commitment, key details including timelines and concrete dates, as well as additional resources, are needed to better understand how and when the City will reach the objectives it has set for itself to realize the right to housing.

The good

To be fair, the fact that the City has managed to prepare a 10-year implementation plan in the midst of a pandemic which is exacerbating the housing crisis and a range of other systemic issues is in itself a commendable feat. It is also proof of the City’s determination to follow through on its commitment to tackle this crisis head-on, and to not let a year go by – even as challenging a year as 2020 has been – without taking this significant next step.

Additionally, the inclusion of specific chapters dedicated to the most marginalized groups and communities is a hopeful sign that the City has not wavered in its resolve to adopt a rights-based approach to housing. This is highly significant, given that the impacts of the housing crisis are disproportionately borne by marginalized and racialized communities, including Black and Indigenous communities. The plan outlines that half of its new affordable units will be supportive housing, which aim to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable residents, including people who are living in homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.

The gaps

The most glaring gap in this plan is that, for the most part, the City’s targets fall short of responding to the scale of the crisis. One example of this can be seen in how the plan aims to respond to the needs of Indigenous communities. Research by the Colour of Poverty in 2019 found that 87% of Indigenous people in Toronto qualified as low-income – representing roughly 40,000 people – and presumably most of them are in need of affordable housing. The target in Toronto’s housing plan aims to create around 5,000 new affordable housing units for Indigenous communities. By this measure, Toronto would need to increase its target by roughly 700% to respond to the needs of Indigenous people in the city, and they are just one community in need among many.

Another significant absence is that of a commitment to put a Housing Commissioner’s office in place. This is an essential accountability mechanism to ensure that the City continues to uphold and advance its commitment to realize the right to housing. Not only are their plans for establishing a Commissioner’s office vague, importantly there is also no mention of resources to be dedicated to this area of the plan.

What’s next

The City’s Planning and Housing Committee met on September 22 to discuss the Implementation Plan, and following this meeting, they will bring their recommendations on the adoption of the plan to the next meeting of the City of Toronto Council on September 29. CERA delivered two deputations to the Planning and Housing Committee outlining our concerns around the necessity of establishing an Office of the Housing Commissioner and continued investment in eviction prevention services as a way to ensure the positive gains made by the HousingTO Plan are not erased. We will continue working with the City as part of the Right to Housing Toronto Network (R2HTO) to ensure that the City fully realizes its commendable commitment to right to housing for all.

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