Why Toronto needs a Housing Commissioner’s Office now

For over a decade, Toronto has been in the midst of a housing crisis. Housing has become prohibitively expensive, to the point that even people living on middle incomes cannot afford to live here. Homeless shelters sit at capacity night after night. And COVID-19 has further exposed the systemic inequalities at the heart of the housing crisis, with communities made vulnerable by the housing system, including  Indigenous Peoples, peoples of colour, women, persons with (dis)abilities, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, those on a low income and those with lived expertise of homelessness and housing precarity and other groups protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, bearing the brunt of both the shortage of affordable housing and the global pandemic.

In December 2019, the City of Toronto made history by becoming the first municipality in Canada to commit to advancing the right to housing in its HousingTO 2020-30 Action Plan. Central to this commitment was the establishment of a Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office to ensure the progressive realization of an inclusive and equitable right to housing in Toronto. The Office was supposed to be established early in 2020, but was delayed after the onset of COVID-19. It’s now one year later and we are still waiting for the Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office, while systemic housing issues across Toronto worsen and an eviction crisis looms.

R2HTO continues to urge the City to establish a fully resourced Office of The Toronto Housing Commissioner without delay. Below you can find information about what the office should look like and actions it could take to address systemic barriers to the right to housing in Toronto.

How the Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office could address systemic housing issues

The Right to Housing Toronto has been advocating for a Housing Commissioner’s Office within the City of Toronto that will be an independent accountability office with the power to take action on systemic barriers to housing faced by people in Toronto, and particularly communities marginalized by our housing system. Working with City staff and councillors, the office should propose practical ways for the City to progressively realize the right to housing for all and address the systemic problems in Toronto’s existing housing systems. A Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office should ensure decision-makers are made aware of the real challenges experienced by people facing housing insecurity and homelessness, and help the City to create the policies and infrastructure necessary to ensuring better housing outcomes for everyone.

What the Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office should do
  • Help the City ensure that its COVID-19 recovery efforts respond to the real housing needs and systemic barriers faced by people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness
  • Highlight the concerns of people with lived experience of housing insecurity and homelessness in policy-making processes and program design at the City
  • Highlight and ensure the elimination of systemic housing barriers across the City which lead to housing insecurity and homelessness, especially for marginalized populations including older adults, members of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities, youth exiting care, people living on low incomes, and people with disabilities
  • Monitor the City’s progress on its commitment to advancing the right to housing in Toronto in its HousingTO 2020-30 Action Plan
  • Collaborate with the City’s existing housing governance bodies to make sure policies and projects align with the City’s Housing Charter and human rights principles
  • Focus on equity, ensure community participation, and highlight concerns of people with lived experience of housing insecurity and homelessness
  • Inform the housing and homelessness policies and programs of other orders of government

For more information about what the Toronto Housing Commissioner’s Office could look like, see R2HTO’s Briefing Note: Toronto’s Housing Commissioner Office