The affordable housing crisis in Ontario and across Canada has gone from bad to worse. Renters are struggling to earn enough to afford their rents, and average increases in rental costs are climbing up faster than average increases in income. Almost half of the renters in Ontario pay 30% or more of their incomes towards their rent, with 1 in 5 households paying 50% or more of their incomes towards their rent. When a tenant pays 50% or more of their income towards their rent, they are at a higher risk of homelessness.
Housing is an issue that affects everyone in Canada. As we come up to a federal election, here are ACTO`s top four priorities for affordable housing:
Build more affordable rental housing
Ontario needs to build thousands more units of affordable non-market rental housing, with an average of 10,000 new units needing to be built annually to meet current demand. For the past 20 years, Ontario has averaged building 5,500 new units built yearly – which is only half of what we need. The incoming federal government needs to invest in building 300,000 non-market owned affordable homes across Canada, and help non-profits or cooperatives build and/or acquire them. Homes that are owned by non-profits or cooperatives can provide people with security of tenure and real affordability.
Retain and repair current affordable housing supply
Almost as important as building new affordable housing is retaining and repairing current affordable housing stock. In Ontario, community housing provides 260,000 homes that are an essential part of the province’s housing supply. Many of these community housing units are aging and badly in need of repairs. Investing in these repairs should be a top priority for any incoming government, as fixing these units is much more affordable than replacing them.
Address the “financialization” of housing
Housing is increasingly being viewed as an asset and opportunity for investment, rather than a place to live. This shift, called the `financialization` of housing, is a critical reason why we are in a worsening housing crisis. When financial institutions and corporations own homes, they need to (by their very nature) maximize their profits – so they must always be charging the highest rents they possibly can. The largest 25 corporate landlords (REITs and other types of firms) owned approximately 330,000 units in 2020. This constitutes nearly 20 per cent of Canada`s private, purpose-built stock of rental apartments. For every newly affordable unit being built, 15 more are lost, in large part because of corporate owners buying up more of the housing supply. All levels of government need to urgently commit to curbing the ongoing financialization of housing.
Create an urban & rural Indigenous housing strategy
As a result of colonization and systemic racism, Indigenous peoples experience housing challenges that differ from the settler populations in Canada. At the present time, Indigenous peoples housing needs are not adequately being met; despite Indigenous peoples making up only 2.8% of Ontario population, they make up 15% of the homeless population in Toronto and 55% in Thunder Bay. The federal government absolutely must work in collaboration and consultation with Indigenous communities to develop a robust housing strategy that will find appropriate housing solutions for Indigenous communities, both on and off reserves.
There was an affordable housing crisis before the pandemic, but there doesn`t need to be one after. Everyone has the right to a safe, affordable, and secure home. As we look to recover from the pandemic, ensuring everyone is adequately housed should be a priority for any incoming federal government.
Remember to vote for affordable housing on September 20, 2021. For more information on how to vote, who your candidates are, and their platforms visit https://elections.ca/home.aspx.
For more information, please see our statement on housing priorities here.