The City of Toronto has issued the COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan — an urgent appeal to the federal and provincial governments to create 3,000 permanent, affordable homes, within the next 24 months, for homeless, vulnerable and marginalized residents. These investments will support the Council-approved HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan aimed at helping more than 340,000 households in Toronto over the next 10 years.
The 3,000 permanent, affordable homes would comprise: 1,000 new permanent modular homes; 1,000 new permanent affordable rental homes created through acquisitions and shovel-ready construction projects; and new portable housing benefits that will assist 1,000 people secure housing and pay rent. The plan also calls for funding to assist 2,000 of these residents with the supports required to maintain stable housing, such as mental health services, substance abuse services, assistance with daily living activities for those with disabilities and senior services.
This fiscally and socially responsible housing recovery plan will provide safe, secure and affordable housing options to reduce homelessness, reduce costs to all orders of government and support economic recovery.
The average cost to operate a shelter bed in Toronto was more than $3,000 per month pre-COVID-19. This cost has now doubled as a result of the increased space and protective resources required by the pandemic. Moving 3,000 people out of shelters and into permanent housing with supports could provide a cost savings of up to $15 million per month ($180 million per year) assuming COVID-19 physical distancing standards remain in place for the foreseeable future. This savings is further increased when considering the reduced costs to the healthcare, long-term care and justice systems when people exit homelessness.
This plan will also help create much-needed employment opportunities, getting people back to work at this critical time as every $1 million invested in housing, create approximately 10 direct, indirect and induced jobs.
The City acknowledges the substantial financial pressures that all governments now face and is thankful for the range of federal and provincial emergency response initiatives that are helping to address the increased housing and homelessness challenges caused by the pandemic.
The City’s Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan proposes to fast-track and expand initiatives under the National Housing Strategy and other existing federal and provincial funding programs, while also reiterating previous requests to the other orders of governments on the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.
The full details of the plan, as well as the breakdown of the funding request, can be found in the staff report “Addressing Housing and Homelessness Issues in Toronto through Intergovernmental Partnerships”, available at: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.PH16.8
The current pandemic highlights the urgency and the opportunity for all governments to make investments that will quickly provide innovative housing options to help manage the challenges associated with COVID-19, while creating solutions that will support people for decades to come.
As noted in the staff report, the funding request was developed based on significant staff work to determine what was required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while planning for a more resilient future. It is also supported by two policy papers, the “Housing & People Action Plan” and the joint City-United Way Greater Toronto “COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy”. Both of these documents were prepared with input from a cross-section of housing and homelessness stakeholders for the Mayor’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. They outline a focused set of actions for the next 12 months and beyond, as well as policy and program options for the federal and provincial governments to consider as they continue their response to the pandemic and plan for sustainable recovery.
In addition to identifying opportunities to leverage actions for more permanent solutions to homelessness, the Task Force advice on the COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy focused on specific actions needed over the next six to 12 months to strengthen effective shelter service delivery and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the shelter system. An implementation plan specific to measures needed to protect homeless clients and to continue to provide shelter services safely while COVID-19 is a concern will be brought forward to Economic and Community Development Committee and Council in October.
Last week, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) proposed a federal initiative and partnership to rapidly acquire and repurpose buildings as permanent, non-profit housing for vulnerable Canadians. The City’s two policy papers are being sent to Big City Mayor’s Caucus and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to further support and inform their efforts in addressing the critical issues of housing and homelessness during this time, and as part of planning for economic and social recovery across Canada.
“Addressing the housing and homelessness issue is a big priority for our city but we know we cannot do it alone. This call is for our Federal and Provincial governments to partner with us on housing to provide a real solution. COVID-19 has heightened the housing issue on so many fronts which means we must act now to create more permanent supportive housing solutions. Our plan is cost-effective and socially responsible and will address the continuing challenges when it comes to housing.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The pandemic has highlighted that access to a safe, secure and affordable home is essential to a person’s health and well-being, and the overall well-being of our society. In the wake of this pandemic, it’s vital that we now jumpstart and accelerate our efforts across all governments to create new affordable homes for everyone, including residents experiencing homelessness, newcomers and essential workers. I also want to thank the members of the ’Housing and People Recovery Team‘ for their invaluable insights and input into the development of the housing action paper released today.”
– Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, (Ward 9 Davenport), Planning and Housing Committee Chair
“Expanding housing opportunities for residents will contribute significantly to our social and economic recovery from the pandemic. Residential infrastructure development delivers a substantial economic multiplier effect, generating new jobs while creating safe and stable housing for thousands of our most vulnerable residents.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Ward 21 Scarborough Centre)
“The need for affordable housing is growing every day in our city. Adequate housing is a fundamental human right and all orders of government, have a role to play. We have to come together and act now to make sure we’re creating the housing that we need to flourish as a city – not only during the pandemic, but for the long term.”
– Councillor Gord Perks, Parkdale-High Park (Ward 4)
“For years we’ve been asking for intergovernmental cooperation to build new affordable housing and since the pandemic the situation has only gotten worse. Now more than ever we urgently need our Provincial and Federal government partners to work with the City of Toronto and help create real solutions by connecting the systemic links between affordable housing and public health, including mental health. People need to have access to a range of housing solutions, from supportive housing to affordable rental units, in order to protect their own health and the health of others.”
– Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre)
“Housing was a priority before the pandemic and our current circumstances have made this an even more urgent issue. Adding more housing is critical – for the advancement of Toronto and to make sure we grow successfully as a City. To emerge stronger from COVID-19 we must have a clear housing focus based on equity and resilience.”
– Councillor Brad Bradford (Ward 19 Beaches-East York)
“We need to seize this opportunity to address the ongoing housing challenges that we face in Toronto. We can’t do this alone however, Toronto needs support to create new housing and effective positive change for our residents, the region and the country as a whole.”
– Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth)
“All orders of government need to come together now. Fair access to a full range of housing will strengthen Toronto’s economy and prepare us for a more resilient future by improving the health and social well-being of our communities.”
– Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park), Mayor’s Resilience and Environmental Champion
“The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly exposed the gaps and vulnerabilities in the housing and homelessness systems. Unless everyone has access to safe, secure, and affordable housing, we will continue to leave a large number of Toronto’s residents vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 which, in turn, will put the health of everyone at risk. We have to go beyond emergency measures and start focusing on measures that address the housing needs in the long term. By answering today’s urgent appeal, all three orders of government can come together to provide life-saving investments that will contribute significantly towards closing the existing gaps and realizing the right to housing for everyone.”
– Elizabeth Mclsaac, President, Maytree Foundation
“We have been hearing consistently from front-line United Way-funded agencies in communities across the GTA: without safe, secure housing, people too often remain trapped in a cycle of poverty.COVID-19 has revealed the inequity that exists in our region – home to great prosperity, and yet a place where too many struggle to find shelter. By coming together across sectors — health, community services, shelter providers and housing providers, different levels of government, and a range of funders – and bringing forward voices from the Black and Indigenous community, we can take an integrated approach to provide promise of real solutions to homelessness.”
– Daniele Zanotti, President & CEO, United Way Greater Toronto