Ontario’s affordable housing wait list continued to swell in 2014 with more than 3,600 applying for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) accommodations. In the wake of these record-high statistics released in the Ontario Non-profit Housing Association’s wait list survey, the discussion surrounding the urgent need for affordable housing across the province has never been louder or stronger.
According to the survey, the average wait-time, province-wide, for affordable accommodations is currently four years, while in Toronto, applicants are more likely to wait seven. Single adults and couples make up 37 per cent of the wait list, while seniors are the fastest growing segment—up 22 per cent from a decade ago.
Among the few positive trends noted in the report was the reduced wait-time for families, a group representing 32 per cent of the total list. In 2014, the wait period for this group dropped by eight months, a dip largely attributable to successful efforts by the municipality of Peel Region. In past years, Peel Region was distinct with the longest wait time, reaching ten years in 2013, but after rent supplements in private-sector apartments were introduced last year, wait time dropped to under six.
Though a step in the right direction, experts in the field believe much more needs to be done in order to tackle what is clearly an affordable housing crisis. “The data show that we need a sustained investment in housing from senior government because local government can’t do it alone,” says ONPHA executive director Sharad Kerur. “Otherwise, we can expect the numbers to continue to increase despite the best efforts from municipalities.”
Closing the Housing Gap in Toronto
Sean Gadon, director of the City of Toronto’s affordable housing division, echoes Kerur’s beliefs that securing additional support is necessary, as is drawing attention to the funding needed to fill the growing gap. “The City of Toronto has a long and established legacy of supporting affordable housing,” he says, adding that, “meeting the housing needs of Toronto has always involved a strong partnership with Ottawa and Queen’s Park.”
Gadon cites the City’s Close the Housing Gap campaign, which launched in 2013 and continues to persuade the federal and provincial governments to step up—not step back—from funding social, affordable and co-op housing. The campaign calls for a long-term national housing strategy; funding for repairs to social housing buildings and new affordable housing; and the ongoing funding for co-op housing.
“All of our partners can do more,” Gadon adds. “That’s why last week Mayor John Tory and Councillor Ana Bailão, the City’s Housing Advocate, announced the proposed Open Door program. Upon approval by Council later this year, Open Door has the potential to speed up new affordable housing and provide a positive environment for private and non-profit developers to build more affordable housing faster.”
In 2015, Gadon reports 209 new affordable rental and ownership homes will be opened in Toronto, while another 716 units are approved and/or in development.
“To achieve the City’s target of 12,000 affordable rental and ownership homes over the period 2010-2020,” he says, “all governments and housing stakeholders are going to have to re-double their efforts to provide quality and affordable housing for the people of Toronto.”
Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine