Protest Housing Emergency in Toronto at City Hall Square
Protest Housing Emergency in Toronto at City Hall Square
4 min. read | By Barry Weisleder
City of Toronto politicians, senior officials, big landlords, land developers and the construction industry have blood on their hands! The Municipal Socialist Alliance is pouring, onto City Hall Square, a representation of the blood of 187 victims of the worsening houselessness crisis.
Toronto Public Health found that three house-less Torontonians died every week last year, 187 lives lost in 2022, due to a lack of shelter in one of the world's richest cities. For women, the median age of deaths amid housing precarity was just 42 years old, versus an overall life expectancy city-wide of 84.
Today we learned that a housing benefit meant to help Toronto’s shelter residents afford the city’s soaring rents and climb out of homelessness, which was supposed to last through Spring of 2024, is set to run out of money after only two months. What do the many candidates for mayor of Toronto say should be done about this terrible Housing Crisis?
My name is Kiri Vadivelu, the Municipal Socialist Alliance candidate for mayor. I am a founding member of the Scarborough Tenants' Union. The MSA and I demand that the city build housing for all, and seize vacant livable spaces in large buildings. We say nationalize giant landlords, along with big construction firms so that large-scale social planning can occur to meet human needs, not private profit.
The treatment of houseless people is cruel and outrageous. They are being sacrificed on the altar of private profit. I call it Social Murder. To rely on the capitalist system to solve this crisis amounts to Social Murder. The capitalist system has got to go. The MSA and I aim to establish a Workers’ Government at levels, to put people before profit. Socialism means public ownership under democratic workers’ control. Vote Socialist on June 26. I am Kiri Vadivelu and I am running to be Toronto’s first socialist mayor.
A housing benefit meant to help Toronto’s shelter residents afford the city’s soaring rents and climb out of homelessness is set to run out of money after only two months.
Toronto City Hall has been sounding the alarm about the portable housing subsidy program, which will exhaust this year’s funds by May 31. The once-per-year funding allocation was meant to last until the spring of 2024 — amid climbing homelessness and the closing of shelters.
Last month, city officials said they would be receiving $9.5 million for the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) over the coming year starting April 1, compared to the $12.3 million it had received the year prior. The difference means it will be able to enroll 500 fewer new recipients into the program this year compared to last year.
The benefit is meant to help bridge the gap between what a person can afford and market rents. But at the current rate of uptake, Toronto expects all available funding for this year to be spent within weeks — meaning it will stop accepting referrals until money starts flowing again.
An extra $20 million in COHB funding is immediately needed. City Council should provide it. There is money for cops on the TTC and for soccer stadium upgrades. Why not for emergency housing?
City data shows Toronto’s homeless population swelled to 10,811 people in March from 9,933 people a year before. In March of this year, the latest month included in public reporting, an average of 119.8 people each day were turned away after calling for shelter space.
Meanwhile, the city is continuing with plans to shut down its pandemic-era shelters, with the downtown Strathcona Hotel — home to youth and adult programs — set to close this summer.
Many shelter occupants rely on social assistance programs. Right now, the average single person on the province’s disability supports receives a maximum of $1,228 per month, $522 of which is earmarked to cover their housing costs. What a sick joke that is. The average purpose-built rental apartment in the Toronto area has edged above $3,000 per month.
Here is more of what the Municipal Socialist Alliance says about the current, severe housing crisis. Skyrocketing rents are driving working class families, low-income communities, seniors, and students out of the GTA, into debt, into unsafe or deplorable living situations, into the shelter system or onto the streets. Those who can’t pay inflated rents are being heavily exploited. The housing market is dominated by real estate and development speculators. The establishment is completely unwilling to fight for the solutions we need. It is time to build rent-geared-to-income, publicly-owned and cooperatively-run accessible housing. In the meantime, expropriate vacant units in large multi-unit buildings and assign them to people in dire need of housing. Landlord licensing is needed so that landlords who fail to keep units in good repair and meet basic standards would have their rental properties turned into cooperatives. Orders and judgments against landlords must be enforced.
Repeal Code 608 (the no camping bylaw).
Eliminate blind bidding on property sales.
Introduce real rent control/freeze.
Vacancy tax to kick in after 3 months, at 30% of property value annually, with expropriation after two years of vacancy. Primary residences excluded.
Put a freeze on property tax for personal property.
Introduce a 30% tax annually on investment properties. This does not include individuals renting out portions of their primary/personal residence.
Aggressive inclusionary zoning — 50% of newly-constructed condo units to be rented at median-market rent.
Public registry of property ownership, which includes the designation of primary/personal residence and secondary/investment properties. Individuals would be limited to two primary/personal residences.
Hire more housing inspectors — empowered to speak with tenants and inspect units. Create a public and accessible system for reporting landlord abuses. Build on to the 311 system.
Introduce mechanisms to transfer property from landlord to city. a.) city has right of first refusal if landlord sells property b.) city takes over for bad landlords.
All housing units expropriated by the city will be rented to tenants as non-profit housing. Rent would cover only utilities and maintenance.
Index the shelter allowance to median-market rent.