Councillor Bailão’s September Letter

This month, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my role as Chair of the City of Toronto’s Affordable Housing Committee.  Affordable housing is a critical issue that impacts the lives of so many people in our city.

The Affordable Housing Committee oversees the activities of the Affordable Housing Office, which help federal and provincial government investments in new affordable rental and ownership housing in partnership with private and non-profit developers. We also facilitate the implementation of Housing Opportunities Toronto, the City’s 10-year affordable housing action plan.

Today, Toronto is experiencing a housing crisis and while many organizations and individuals work with us to provide solutions, much more needs to be done.  More than 79,000 households are waiting for social housing and this number has grown by over 6,000 households in the last year.

Some 28% of families and individuals in Toronto are struggling to pay rent and we know that when people don’t have enough money to afford the rent, it means having to choose between paying for shelter, food and other necessities.  Toronto has a housing plan to deal with these issues and it’s called Housing Opportunities Toronto – a 10-year plan for affordable housing.

The report provides direction for dealing with the City’s housing issues and includes building new housing, helping people afford rent and repairs and helping people become homeowners in partnership with federal and provincial governments and local organizations.

As Chair, one of the first things I did was get myself a pair of construction boots so that I could go out and personally experience what we can accomplish together.  Recently, I visited the YWCA-Elm Centre that is under construction.  In October, when it opens, the building will provide new affordable homes for 300 women and their children.  It will also provide important community amenities including a women’s community meeting room, a large auditorium and a restaurant. This initiative is a shining example of how having a plan for housing – the necessary funds – committed partners makes our city livable.

I also recently attended a ground breaking event for a new Habitat for Humanity Toronto development.  This project in Scarborough included participation by our Emergency Services, which demonstrated the importance of our community partners that are producing positive results for affordable housing and low income families.

I know that housing impacts our health, environment, the economy and people’s ability to work and participate fully in our communities.  That’s why it’s so important that we have continued leadership and investments from the senior levels of government.

In the last two years, the federal and provincial governments directed more than $500 million of economic stimulus funding to housing in the GTA. These investments support the repair and renovation of more than 1 000 social housing buildings. These funds are also creating more than 2,200 affordable homes and assisting more than 800 low and moderate income households to buy their first home.

Last year, the provincial government released the first Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, which established Ontario’s interest in affordable housing and provides a framework for future housing investments.

The Province has taken a leadership role in committing 20% affordable housing in the Pan-Am Village, which is being developed for 2015.  We’re also hopeful that the federal and provincial governments will release details of an Ontario housing agreement that will provide $100 million over the next three years to assist in housing Toronto residents.

In the short time I’ve been elected, I’ve learned that partnerships are an essential part to addressing our housing needs.  This was demonstrated last February when I organized a Symposium on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness in partnership with the Toronto Board of Trade and the United Way.

Over 150 people attended to share their ideas and urged us to continue to make housing a priority.  As a follow-up, I’ve created a Private Sector Housing RoRound-tableo bring more people together and am planning to dialogue soon with CivicAction who have made housing a priority to make Toronto a more liveable, prosperous and more economically sound.

With the upcoming provincial election, I encourage you to ask the local candidates when they knock on your door, where they stand on housing and if they will abide by the agreements that Ontario’s current government has signed on to.  It is imperative that we ensure that housing is on the agenda.

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