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A rooming house policy that puts tenants first

October 25, 2016

On October 26th, Toronto’s City Planning and Municipal Licensing & Standards Divisions will bring their proposed rooming house[1] strategy to Toronto’s Executive Committee.

It’s a thoughtfully-written document, but a cautious one, recommending another full year of consultations – this after a comprehensive research and consultation program that began in 2014 and entailed 14 neighbourhood consultations, 7 tenant focus groups, meetings with post-secondary institutions, agencies and rooming house operators, and an online survey – simply to introduce a pilot project.

It is hard to predict the outcome of the consultations. But one thing I do know. If the City of Toronto hopes to make good on its 2010-2020 Affordable Housing Action Plan or its Poverty Reduction Strategy, its rooming house policy must put tenants first. Read more…

Rooming House By-laws for the 21st Century

May 10, 2016

I don’t often recommend the Globe and Mail comments section as a source of policy guidance. But I hope everyone who cares about rooming houses in Toronto spotted the most “liked” comment following John Lorinc’s recent article on “Dangerous – but affordable – fire-trap apartments.” Read more…

Homelessness Ends Here

May 3, 2016

Are you all planning to attend a Jane’s Walk this year? I hope so. They are a marvellous opportunity to learn more about the city and how it works.

I am leading my own walk this year. It’s called Homelessness Ends Here. It’s a look at the costs of homelessness — personal and public — and solutions developed over the past 30 years: Toronto’s Homes First pioneers (30 years before Housing First became a buzzword!);  the transformation of a hotel into permanent homes, a shelter into transitional housing, and another shelter into a multi-level response to an aging homeless population; a TCHC turnaround; new hope for veterans; and one of the very few deeply affordable housing developments created under new funding programs.

We’ll also have a chance to reflect on some of the questions for the next 30 years: gentrification; the threats to rooming houses; the future of advocacy; the opportunity created by driverless cars; and the power of beauty.

The walk begins this Saturday, May 7th, 10 am at the Toronto Homeless Memorial, Trinity Square, behind the Eaton Centre. It would be lovely to see you there.

An Ontario Affordable Housing Strategy for everyone

March 16, 2016

When we think about housing policy, we often think about people who have “fallen through the cracks.”

But what happens when the cracks become wider than the pavement? When the majority of people cannot afford their own home? When most people have precarious incomes? When Toronto has more low-income neighbourhoods – 49% of the City![1] — than middle-income neighbourhoods? Read more…

TCHC: A Case for “Non-Profitization”

February 18, 2016

On January 16th, the Mayor’s Task Force recommended that Toronto Community Housing be transitioned to a new community-based non-profit housing corporation.

It’s a good idea, but it’s not a new one. In the UK, the US, and Australia, governments have recognized the community sector can do a better job of creating and managing housing than they can.

It’s the same conclusion reached over 40 years ago in Canada. In 1973, the Federal Government abandoned the old public housing model – where government built, owned and managed the housing — in favour of independent non-profit and co-op housing corporations. Read more…

Who will pay for a transformed TCHC?

February 10, 2016

“It’s all about the money.”

That was the phrase on just about every Councillor’s lips during the Executive Committee’s January 28th discussion about the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing.

I agree. Whether TCHC, NewHome or a group of smaller non-profit or co-op corporations assumes responsibility for the 58,500 homes now owned by TCHC, the numbers have to add up. Read more…

Five Task Force ideas that will change tenants’ lives

January 29, 2016

This week news outlets were buzzing about the “transformative changes” recommended in the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing: a transition to a new non-profit housing corporation, increased income-mixing, accelerated development.

These are the “meta-changes” that will be the focus of discussion at City Hall and will require careful analysis from City staff. But tucked into the report are recommendations that have generated far less media coverage but will, quite literally, reach tenants where they live.

Here is my list of the Task Force’s “top five for tenants.” Read more…