Mayors Work to Secure Housing Funding, But Is it Enough?
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Mayors Work to Secure Housing Funding, But Is it Enough?

Toronto needs $1.7 billion for social housing capital repairs alone.

Mayor John Tory suffered a political embarrassment at the hands of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne late last week when she refused his request to institute tolls on two highways. But he seemed to have better luck with the federal government when he, as part of a caucus of Canadian mayors, presented a proposal for housing funding earlier this month.

Ottawa has been in the process of creating a national housing strategy for some months, first conducting consultations with organizations, researchers, and other stakeholders and having regular Canadians fill out an online survey. After releasing a report on the results of those consultations, the government is now working to turn those results into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the crises in homelessness and affordable housing. While they continue to develop that strategy, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities continues to lobby for its housing vision.

“This next budget really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the housing crisis,” FCM president Clark Somerville said in an emailed statement. “Ottawa has put unprecedented dollar-amounts on the table for social infrastructure. Now we need a bold decision to stream much of that into social and affordable housing.”

With that in mind, the mayors of many Canadian cities are asking for investments to protect current social housing and increase the amount of it that’s available.

Toronto alone needs nearly $1.7 billion to repair the city’s community housing, and Toronto Community Housing CEO Greg Spearn told the Toronto Star that the funding needs to be secured by June or the organization will fall hopelessly behind in repairs and risk losing a unit per day in 2018. The City is pushing both the provincial and federal governments to contribute.

“We’ve got 600,000 vulnerable Canadian families relying on social housing, but chronic underinvestment means these homes need major repairs to remain safe and affordable,” Somerville said. “Protecting those homes should be job number one. Then we also need to be building more social and affordable housing in new and innovative ways.”

In addition to those 600,000, there are more than 175,000 people on the waitlist for social housing in Toronto—you can expect to wait as long as 10 years once you’re on the list.

Tory’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but a source at FCM speaking on background said that while no one will know the federal government’s plan until it’s released—it’s expected around the same time as the budget—expectations are that the national housing strategy will be a positive development and will meet some or all of the demands made by the mayors.

When asked what would happen if the federal government fell short and if the mayors had any plan to push further for the necessary funding, the source was quiet.