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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