At 640 Lansdowne Ave., a parcel of land that has been derelict and abandoned since 1997 after the TTC declared it surplus, Mayor John Tory and Coun. Ana Bailao announced that affordable housing is coming to the neighbourhood.
“Housing is one of the biggest challenges we face as a city,” Bailao, who is also city council’s housing advocate, said Tuesday.
She added that the city is also offering 14 additional locations for affordable housing developments worth around one million dollars.
Tory said the announcement was a strategically timed gesture to show the provincial and federal levels of government Toronto is serious about tackling the problem of affordable housing and needs financial help to do so. On Friday mayors from major cities across Canada and housing advocates will gather in Toronto to discuss a national housing strategy that could lighten the financial load for municipalities struggling to pay for new affordable homes.
“Without partnerships with other levels of government, Toronto will become more and more unaffordable and that will have a profound impact on the social and economic health of our city and country,” he said.
Funding has been falling as operational agreements with other levels of government have expired.
“This has translated into a reduction of just this year alone $38 million dollars,” Bailao added.
“We’ve also seen a loss of funding at the provincial level that meant a loss every year of $114 million.”
The city has had to pick up the cost. In 2014, no new affordable housing units were built and now Toronto is playing catch up.
“Since I took office, and Ana Bailao has been made the housing advocate, 522 affordable housing units have been approved by city council to be built across the city,” Tory said.
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City data reveals federal funding has been falling since 2004, much of it due to the phasing out of federal operating agreements. The projected reduction by 2020 is expected to be almost $10 million.
Tory revealed the commitment for more money from the federal government seems “unclear,” but he said the messages he’s getting from Queen’s Park are more uncertain.
“The province, I will say, has been much less precise at all. In fact, what you’ve seen is a declining level of participation including some of the removal of the funds we used to use,” he said.
Less money leaves low-income residents more vulnerable, according to Kenneth Hale, legal director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.
“The people at the bottom need to fill in the gap by themselves by taking money out of their food budget, moving to even less suitable accommodations. Filling in basement apartments and illegal rooming houses,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said the province has given Toronto $1.2 billion since 2003; $108 million of that has gone to affordable housing programs.
The national housing summit is this Friday at Ada Slaight Hall.