Regini David – West Scarborough Community Legal Services

An image of Regini David, from West Scarborough Community Legal Services. The image includes the following quote: "The right to housing means that people should have access to affordable, safe homes and live freely in their community without any discrimination."

What does the right to housing mean to you?

The right to housing means that people should have access to affordable, safe homes and live freely in their community without any discrimination. Policies and regulations should be designed by using a human rights lens to treat all tenants equally. Housing policies from the municipal, provincial and federal levels should help to prevent eviction and provide support to the most vulnerable tenants to prevent homelessness and reduce poverty.

What is the #1 thing that Toronto City Council must do to advance the right to housing this year?

The City must legalize Multi-Tenant Housing (rooming houses) and protect all tenants equally throughout the city.

Toronto has an affordable housing crisis; hidden homelessness and rooming houses are increasing in our neighbourhoods and across the city. We need affordable rooms in every part of the city, and the people who live in rooms outside of the downtown core deserve the same legal protections as their downtown counterparts, where rooming houses are legal.

It is a good step that the City has been working on its HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. However, this housing plan will take time to implement. It has not addressed the immediate needs of vulnerable tenants, and many of the housing projects are not deeply affordable for low-income individuals. The City should not only create more deeply affordable homes; it should preserve the deeply affordable homes that already exist to address the current needs and realities of low-income individuals and to prevent homelessness. The City has heard from the community on the importance of legalizing multi-tenant houses as this matter has gone through multiple studies and consultations in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2020 and 2021.

It is time for the City to address and prioritize the concerns of unsafe and unprotected conditions that lower income tenants are living in. All tenants should have access to affordable homes and to freely choose to live near their community, temples, churches and mosques without any barriers. In addition, decision-makers should recognize privilege and power to balance the needs of all when working with residents and in their projects.

Magda Barrera – Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)

What does the right to housing mean to you?

Having a safe, secure, and affordable home is the building block upon which everything else follows. The right to housing is absolutely essential to people’s inherent dignity and well-being and it is the foundation for ensuring our communities are sustainable and inclusive. The pandemic has made the need for governments to address the lack of adequate housing even clearer. We’ve seen vulnerable populations experience soaring levels of housing insecurity and unaffordability. There must be a commitment from leadership and all levels of government to implement the right to housing effectively, which will be critical for the post-pandemic recovery.

What is the number one thing that Toronto City Council must do to advance the right to housing this year?

Toronto City Council needs to do everything it can to preserve the existing affordable housing stock in the city, which includes protecting tenants from evictions and displacement. All across the city, tenants are faced with large rent increases, evictions, and displacement. While many of the regulations for rental housing fall under provincial jurisdiction, it is still important for the City to provide support for tenants through mechanisms such as the EPIC Program and Rent Bank. They also need to improve the enforcement of maintenance standards and repairs (like through RentSafeTO), and consider innovative ways to address key challenges – like renovictions – that are driving the affordable housing crisis.

We also need the City to invest in more robust data collection and analysis that can inform efforts to protect renters and safeguard affordable housing. Two areas of focus should be data on evictions and above-guidelines rent increases, which would allow policy makers and advocates to better understand where tenants face the most pressure and intervene effectively.

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Geordie Dent – Executive Director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations

What does the right to housing mean to you?

The Right to Housing means looking at housing the way we look at other infrastructure: systems and facilities which develop our city and make it more prosperous. While infrastructure sometimes has a small user fee attached, most in Toronto expect to be able to access water, hospitals, schools, parks, roads and other public services without major obstacles.

Unfortunately, housing doesn’t currently work this way…but it should. Many residents have been priced out of the ownership market and are leaving the city, while a large portion of the population has been priced out of the rental market altogether ending up entrenched in homelessness on the streets. We wouldn’t expect people to be turned away at a hospital, park or water fountain due to cost, and the same principle should apply in a city operating under the principle of the right to housing.

What is the number one thing that Toronto City Council must do to advance the right to housing this year?

The City has to immediately legalize rooming houses across the city. While they are violating their own right to housing policies in breaking up city encampments, residents in those encampments have no current options to find affordable housing off the streets. Safe and legal rooming houses would be a straightforward way to allow the creation of affordable housing options for the City’s low-income residents, currently forced to live in unsafe housing options.

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Anna-Kay Brown – Organizer with the Jane Finch Housing Coalition

An image of Anna-Kay Brown, from the Jane Finch Housing Coalition, with a quote: The right to housing is a human right and needs to be adopted universally. Housing should not determine an individual’s worth or humanity but enhance it.

What does the right to housing mean to you?

The right to housing means so many different things to me because it affects every aspect of my life, from stability, safety, family, community, health, and happiness. Housing has always been a major factor that impacts my life from birth to present. My family’s housing needs became even more prevalent once we moved to Canada, and because of this it fuels the work I do. The right to housing is a human right and needs to be adopted universally. Housing should not determine an individual’s worth or humanity but enhance it.

What is the number one thing that Toronto City Council must do to advance the right to housing this year?

Toronto City Council needs to strengthen their affordable housing policies. The City needs to be authentic and intentional with how they address housing needs, especially when working with diverse and marginalized communities. This work needs to be conducted through an equity and anti-displacement lens because we cannot police our way out of the crisis we continue to face. Utilizing tools like Inclusionary Zoning, requiring a minimum of 30% of affordable units in all new developments, and creating more deeply affordable and rent-geared-to-income units are a few solutions. Overall City Council needs to listen, implement, and work with communities to address housing needs because band-aid solutions will not continue to work.


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Ingrid Palmer – child welfare rights, disability justice and housing advocate

An image of a woman Ingrid Palmer, with the quote: "As a former Crown Ward in the child welfare system and a Black woman with a disability, the Right to Housing is a pathway to transforming the sometimes untenable conditions of one’s life into a foundation upon which “better” can be boldly pursued."

What does the right to housing mean to you?

As a former Crown Ward in the child welfare system and a Black woman with a disability, the Right to Housing is a pathway to transforming the sometimes untenable conditions of one’s life into a foundation upon which “better” can be boldly pursued. When you have the security of a safe and affordable place to lay your head, you are in a better position to pursue education, employment, needed resources or services, and to simply enjoy the everyday simplicities of life.

What is the number one thing Toronto City Council must to do advance the right to housing this year?

Toronto City Council must fully embrace their responsibility to incorporate, sufficiently financially back, and model through intentional and robust leadership the overall necessity of a rights-based housing reality for EVERYONE. When our leaders exemplify equity in all they do, everything else will fall in line; one only has to be brave enough to do it.

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Joy Connelly – housing rights advocate

An image of a woman Joy Connelly, Housing Rights Advocate, with a quote: "Saving affordable homes is cheaper and faster than building new ones. A victory for both human rights and the City’s budget."

What does the right to housing mean to you?

If we turn on the tap and no water comes out, we call the City and workers come rushing to our aid. If a family moves to Toronto and shows up at a school, the children will be in a classroom within the hour. That’s because we believe water and education are rights.

Toronto City Council has declared housing is a right, as has the Government of Canada. But we are not yet at the stage where we treat homelessness as the emergency it is, or can dispense with social housing waiting lists because people who need a home just can’t wait. When all people have a liveable, affordable home, we’ll know that housing is recognized as a human right.

What is the #1 thing that Toronto City Council must do to advance the right to housing this year?

Preserve the affordable housing we have.

That means preserving affordable rooms – the only private-sector housing still affordable to singles on social assistance or earning minimum wage – through rooming house policies that improve living standards without driving up costs or displacing tenants. It means vigorously defending the City’s 2019 Official Plan Amendment to replace rooms lost to redevelopment, now being appealed. It means removing any city regulations that dissuade owners from creating second suites. And it means strengthening measures to help tenants keep their homes, as the City has done through welcome enhancements to the Rent Bank and funding to tenant support organizations.

I also look forward to a Federal Acquisitions Program, so the City can enable non-profit groups to snap up rental buildings that are up for sale and keep them affordable forever. As housing researcher Steve Pomeroy observes, between 2011 to 2016, Canada lost 15 affordable homes through redevelopment or financialization for every new affordable home built. That trend has accelerated.

Displacing tenants into precarity or homelessness violates the right to housing. So does forcing tenants to sacrifice basic needs to pay the rent. Saving affordable homes is cheaper and faster than building new ones. A victory for both human rights and the City’s budget.

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