How Can We Improve Families' Access to Safe, Stable, Affordable and Suitable Housing?

University of Toronto
October 17, 2014
Categories: Ask the Hub

Today, October 17, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The United Nations has focused this year’s theme on complete eradication of extreme poverty in poor countries of the global South, where—thanks to concerted global efforts led by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals—rates of extreme poverty have been cut in half since 1990.

The same cannot be said for Toronto, where rates of hunger, homelessness, and family poverty have ballooned in that same period, driven by economic and social trends of increasing inequality and polarization. Research by David Hulchanski’s Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership shows that our city is becoming so segregated by income and race that it could be seen as three cities: a booming “City #1,” well-resourced central zones of mostly white, upper-income households; the diminishing “City #2” of ethnically mixed and middle-income households; and a growing “City #3” of low-income neighbourhoods far from transit and services, where most residents are members of racialized communities.

My project, Family Homelessness in Toronto’s Inner Suburbs examined the housing conditions of families in the aging apartment buildings that are concentrated in City #3. What we found was striking: nine out of ten families have housing that fails to meet basic United Nations standards of adequacy. Their housing is unaffordable, overcrowded, unsafe, insecure, and in need of repair. Family homelessness is rampant in these neighbourhoods, but it is mostly hidden. Many families lose their housing due to violence, eviction, and unsafe conditions. When they do, they usually double-up with other families in their neighbourhoods instead of going to shelters.

In consultation with an advisory board of front-line agencies and tenant leaders in these neighbourhoods, we have produced a new research summary, released today. The flyer, which will be translated into multiple languages, aims to put this information in the hands and on the screens of tenants and front-line workers.

Toronto’s housing crisis is urgent, and it won’t be solved by research alone. Citizens need to stand up and demand that all levels of government uphold the right to adequate housing. We hope this flyer can provide evidence and information to strengthen tenants’ organizing.

At tonight’s Mayoral Debate on Housing and Homelessness, candidates will tell us where they stand. In our last election, the slogan Respect for Taxpayers won the day – and we all saw how that worked out. What about Respect for Tenants? Which candidate’s policies will improve the housing situation for low-income families in Toronto?

Families, Housing and the Risk of Homelessness in Toronto's Rental High Rises

Emily Paradis, PhD, is Senior Research Associate at Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, where she is Project Manager of the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership. She has been an activist, researcher, advocate, and front-line service provider with women facing homelessness for 25 years. Her scholarly work focuses on homelessness among women and families, human rights dimensions of homelessness and housing, community-based research and action with marginalized groups, and participatory interventions to address socio-spatial inequalities between and within urban neighbourhoods. Her creative projects have included collaboration on the National Film Board project HIGHRISE, and she is a member of the Right to Housing Coalition.

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