Mayor Rob Ford recently backtracked on a crucial issue. First he threatened to use revenue from the sale of public housing units to balance the city’s budget. Twenty-four hours later, he flip-flopped and agreed that the revenue should be used to fix Toronto’s existing social housing stock (as originally promised). Ford’s about-face speaks to the real-life nightmare that would ensue if important repairs were not made to existing public housing units. It also speaks to the power of advocates who are both glaringly aware of what those nightmares would look like, and are prepared to fight tooth and nail for social housing. But the mayor’s U-turn is not enough. He must also use his political clout to lobby the federal and provincial governments to step up their respective commitments to affordable housing. Public housing, by definition, is housing that is owned and operated by a public housing authority, such as the Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC). It serves a purpose. Rent in most parts of Canada — especially in large cities — is out of reach for a substantial portion of households. Today in Toronto, average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $1,100 a month. Yet the maximum shelter allowance that a single adult with one child receives on social assistance is just $578 a month. Social housing units help low-income households afford housing they need. It is highly likely that, without government-assisted housing on a large scale, tens of thousands of Torontonians would be destitute, pockets of the city would look like small refugee camps, and thousands of children would be apprehended by child welfare authorities.
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The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is the largest national research institute devoted to homelessness in Canada. The COH is the curator of the Homeless Hub.Canadian Observatory on Homelessness