Key Takeaways from the 2024 City of Toronto Budget

The 2024 City of Toronto Budget commits historic new investments for affordable housing and supports for renters across the city, marking a significant departure from previous budgets focused on keeping property tax increases low and prioritizing homeowners over renters. R2HTO strongly supports the budget’s increased investments toward the preservation of affordable housing and protections for renters, which are critical to advancing the right to housing.  

In particular, we are glad to see a significant increase in funding for MURA beginning this year (funded in part through dedicated funds from the federal HAF), which will expedite the acquisition and preservation of more affordable housing across the city. We are also encouraged by increased investments toward Toronto Rent Bank and TTSP, greater staff complements for EPIC and RentSafeTO, and additional federal funding for the COHB, all of which will help ensure low-income and other vulnerable renters can remain housed.  

We commend Mayor Chow for demonstrating strong acumen around provincial and federal collaboration, securing much needed funding to meet the needs of Toronto residents. Additionally, we support the property tax rate increases, including for multi-residential properties, which will protect renters in rent-controlled units from untenable AGIs

Notwithstanding these important investments and initiatives, there are a few key areas where the 2024 budget could have gone further to realize the right to housing for renters across the city.  

Of critical concern is the lack of funding for renter support, education, and protection under the new MTH framework. This poses a significant risk of displacement and homelessness, considering that MTH’s provide some of the city’s most affordable housing to some of its most vulnerable residents. As the City prepares to roll out its new MTH framework in April, it should explore options to support renters, in addition to further engagement and education with MTH operators to discourage and mitigate potential MTH losses. 

While we support the increased investments toward other renter support programs, they fall short of Mayor Chow’s election campaign commitments, which included tripling EPIC and doubling Toronto Rent Bank funding to meet the depth of need facing renters. In fact, as noted below, EPIC received less new funding in the 2024 budget compared to the previous year, while Toronto Rent Bank received the same level of new funding. Further, while additional staff for RentSafeTO will help increase capacity for unit assessments and repairs, the program could have a much greater impact through a more robust landlord licensing system

With respect to affordable housing preservation, the Mayor previously committed $100 million annually toward an affordable housing acquisition program, whereas MURA will ultimately receive $100 million over three years. In addition to exploring options to continue scaling up MURA, the City must adequately monitor and report on its efforts toward housing preservation and development to ensure they are not contributing to the loss of existing affordable housing stock. Similarly, immediate action should be taken to expedite the launch of HART, including implementation of the Renovictions By-law and more effective monitoring and reporting on the Rental Demolition and Conversion By-law.

Year-Over-Year Comparison

While gaps remain in the 2024 City of Toronto Budget, it is worth examining some of its key housing-related commitments in relation to previous budgets, considering the significant shifts in approach toward taxation and spending.

 2023 2024  YoY $ YoY % 
MTH +$3.5 million1 +$2 million2 -$1.5 million  -43% 
MURA No new $ +$41 million +$41 million  +100% 
EPIC +$1.1 million +0.9 million -$0.2 million  -18% 
Toronto Rent Bank +$1 million +$1 million No change  No change 
TTSP No new $ +$0.3 million +$0.3 million  +100% 
RentSafeTO +$0.9 million +$0.9 million No change  No change 
Residential tax rate increase3 Multi-res. tax rate increase4 7% 4.25% 9.5% 3.5% – +2.5% -0.75% 

The 2024 budget marks a significant increase in housing-related investments compared to the previous year, with the additional $41 million for MURA comprising the vast majority of new and enhanced housing-related funding. While the 2024 budget also invests more toward TTSP, interestingly, there was a decrease in overall new spending for the MTH framework and EPIC, while new funding levels remained the same for RentSafeTO and Toronto Rent Bank compared to 2023, as noted above. Moreover, all MTH funding to date has been dedicated toward planning, licensing, enforcement, renovations, and repairs, with no funding allotted for renters. 

Little progress was made in the 2024 budget to advance the launch of HART and implement the Renovictions By-law, following the introduction of those initiatives in the 2023 budget, aimed at supporting renters who have been evicted or are at risk of eviction. However, the residential tax rate continued to increase in the 2024 budget to adequately fund urgently needed city programs and services, while the multi-residential rate decreased compared to the 2023 budget, with a particular focus on protecting renters from AGIs

Considering the concerning rate of affordable housing loss across the city, it is encouraging to see the 2024 budget prioritize the preservation of existing affordable housing through partnerships with the non-profit and Indigenous housing sectors. However, to meaningfully advance the right to housing and define itself in contrast to the previous administration, the new administration under Mayor Chow must also ensure that adequate supports are in place to keep renters housed affordably and sustainably. 

What’s included in Toronto City Council’s 2023 budget

On February 15, the City of Toronto passed its 2023 budget. The Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO) submitted our recommendations to the Budget Committee in January, emphasizing the need for the City to take a rights-based approach by ensuring a participatory process, and that the maximum of available resources are being made available, prioritizing those who need it the most. 

Here are some of the positives and negatives of what has been committed to this year in the budget.  

  • First, we are disappointed that the budget process did not take a rights-based approach. Funds were allocated to various programs, and then the leftover funds were used to fund critical initiatives in the city to house people. A rights-based approach would have prioritized the needs of those most impacted by the affordable and adequate housing crisis, and allocated the maximum available resources for initiatives that can house all Torontonians.  
  • Councillor Carroll’s proposal to allocate $800K to open an additional 24/7 warming centre until April 15 passed. Currently, with no 24/7 warming centres, this is a positive step that will support 50 people for 2-months. However, Councillor Bravo’s proposal to allocate $900K for 24/7 warming centres that would be provided in partnership with non-profit community partners did not pass. One 24/7 warming centre for 2-months is not enough to meet the needs of unhoused people.  
  • Councillor Carroll’s proposal to expand the proposed budget of $6.2 million for the Rent Bank by $1 million passed, which will help more tenants to pay their rent arrears and stabilize their housing passed.  
  • RentSafeTO will have $848K to hire 8 new full-time staff thanks to Councillor Matlow’s motion.  
  • Budget commitments will also support Housing Secretariat’s office to develop a renovictions bylaw, increase the supply of affordable & supportive housing for Indigenous and Black communities, and more. However, proposal by Councillor Matlow to expand the Tenant Support Program to support the growing number of tenants dealing with renovictions failed.  
  • Budget commitments for ML&S department will also support the implementation of multi-tenant houses licensing program and the enforcement of short-term rentals.   
  • Toronto also approved $882K to allocate to establishing the Housing Commissioner role with the Ombudsman’s office.  
  • The budget also commits funds to support the City Planning department in the creation of new housing under the EHON program and other revitalization projects. 

Toronto City Council finally votes for Inclusionary Zoning

Following nearly three years of consultations, Toronto City Council has voted for the adoption of an Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) policy. This means that new housing developments near major transit areas in Toronto will be required to have a specific percentage of affordable units, whether it be condominiums or rental buildings. It is a welcome decision to see Toronto join nearly 500 other North American municipalities in adopting IZ.

Toronto’s IZ is mandatory which demonstrates the commitment to ensuring that developers participate in making our city more affordable for residents. We are glad to see that the period of affordability has been extended to 99 years, essentially making the housing developed affordable for many years to come. The definition of affordability is also based on a household’s income, ensuring that they do not spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

While we applaud the passing of IZ in Toronto, we want to acknowledge that this policy could have been bolder. The policy passed requires a much lower set-aside rate and a slower phase-in period than what some studies had shown to be feasible. What this means for our residents is the loss of an opportunity to build a higher number of affordable housing our residents need.

We hope that by passing IZ, City Council will now have the policy tool it needs to build more affordable homes and to review this policy in a timely manner so it becomes stronger and more effective in increasing affordable housing choices. We also hope that the integrity of the policy will be upheld over the long haul, where such reviews will be grounded in a rights-based framework, similar to that recognized in the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.

City Council lacks support from councillors to legalize Multi-Tenant Housing framework yet again

City Councillors in Toronto had an opportunity twice this year to approve a framework to permit and regulate multi-tenant homes (MTH) across the city that would protect the residents of unregulated MTH, and preserve these deeply affordable housing options for residents. Both times, City Council failed to get enough votes to pass this crucial policy and instead chose to defer the proposed MTH regulatory framework. The Mayor, while deferring the vote for a second time, asked City staff to reconsider several aspects of the proposed framework such as parking spaces, and increasing the number of enforcement workers.

MTH offers some of the most affordable housing options for Toronto’s residents and they exist in almost every neighbourhood across the city, whether or not some people choose to recognize them. These are the housing options for many students, newcomers, seniors and people living on fixed incomes. The failure of passing the new regulatory framework means that many of these residents will continue to live in the shadows, in often unsafe and inadequate homes. As their homes remain illegal in many parts of Toronto, these residents live with the fear of losing their home if they raise their housing concerns with City authorities, and are left without legal protections to improve their living conditions.

The City of Toronto made a commitment to advance the right to housing in its HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. This implies that the City adopts policies that help all residents access safe, adequate and affordable homes. The City of Toronto’s Housing Charter and a human rights approach to housing recognizes that “all residents should be able to live in their neighbourhood of choice without discrimination”. The current regulatory framework of the City’s multi-tenant homes is discriminatory and in conflict with the City’s Housing Charter commitments to uphold people’s right to housing.

Our City is once again allowing a dangerous and discriminatory status-quo to continue by deferring its vote on the new regulatory framework. We call on Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council to end the ongoing discirmination against tenants living in MTH by approving and implementing the new regulatory framework. Protecting these residents and ensuring their safety is of paramount importance.

Addressing homelessness in the city

Nearly a year ago, in September 2020, the Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO) provided the City with a set of rights-based recommendations to uphold its commitment to realize the right to housing for all residents living in encampments.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, encampments have increased across the city, many of which are as a result of unsafe conditions in shelters and the lack of access to adequate and affordable homes.  

Ahead of Toronto City Council’s meeting on June 8 and 9, 2021, R2HTO joined 20 organizations and groups who signed a joint statement urging the City to act in compliance with human rights legislation at the provincial, national, and international levels by enacting a rights-based approach to engage with encampment residents and people experiencing homelessness.

At the Council meeting, Councillor Mike Layton introduced a motion asking for the City to reiterate its commitment to a human rights approach to housing for those experiencing homelessness, as well as to ensure that City staff develop and implement a response that is consistent with the Jury’s recommendations from the Faulkner Inquest, as it specifically relates to the health and safety of those living in encampments. The motion passed with near unanimous support, which was a welcome development and is a crucial approach to addressing the housing and homelessness crisis in Toronto.

A core aspect of a rights-based approach to addressing serious human rights issues like homelessness is to meaningfully engage impacted communities. At this same council meeting, Councillor Layton’s introduced a motion to meaningfully engage encampment residents and people with lived experience of homelessness in developing a strategy to provide them with housing opportunities. Unfortunately, this motion failed to gain support from a majority of City Councillors.

On July 21, following the City’s clearing of several encampments, advocates including R2HTO once again urged the City to take a rights-based approach by consulting encampment residents in their efforts to find them adequate and safe housing. We supported a set of rights-based recommendations laid out in A Path Forward which was presented to Mayor John Tory.

We will continue to urge the City to address homelessness by upholding its obligations and implementing rights-based recommendations in all areas of its housing policies and practices. 

R2HTO Statement on the City deferring the new multi-tenant housing framework

The City of Toronto made a commitment to advance the right to housing in its 10-year HousingTO Action Plan, through its housing policy. This commitment means the City adopts policies that help all residents in the city access adequate and affordable homes. Today, City Councillors in Toronto had an opportunity to pass a policy to permit and regulate multi-tenant homes across the city that would recognize Toronto’s deeply affordable housing options and to ensure that tenants with lower incomes can live in safe and adequate homes. We are disappointed that Toronto’s City Council didn’t have the votes to pass this important framework and instead had to defer passing the proposed multi-tenant housing regulatory framework.

Multi-tenant homes provide an important affordable rental option for many low-income Torontonians. These homes can be found across the entire city but are unfortunately not permitted in many parts of the city. This has forced many residents to live in the shadows, oftentimes in unsafe and inadequate conditions, with the fear of losing their homes if they raise their housing concerns with City authorities.

The City of Toronto’s Housing Charter and a human rights approach to housing recognizes that “all residents should be able to live in their neighbourhood of choice without discrimination”. The current regulatory framework of the City’s multi-tenant homes is discriminatory. Failing to harmonize the regulatory regime across Toronto is in conflict with the City’s Housing Charter commitments and violates people’s human rights.

Leaving many multi-tenant homes to operate in an unregulated regime is to pretend that these homes and their residents do not exist and don’t matter. How long will the City of Toronto let the residents of multi-tenant homes be left without legal protections and living in potentially unsafe homes?

Today the City not only failed to protect its lower income residents, but it also failed to acknowledge that multi-tenant houses are an important part of its affordable rental housing stock. It also lost a crucial opportunity to implement a more cost-effective way of increasing the affordable housing stock that Toronto desperately needs. City Council has an opportunity to right their wrong in September, and protect the right to housing in Toronto. This is our chance to do better. Let’s not lose our chance to do so.