Mayor John Tory is applauding the national housing strategy unveiled Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto, saying it shows the federal government was paying attention to the concerns raised by Canada's seven big-city mayors when they met last year.
The long-awaited strategy provides the framework for "meaningful action," Tory said in response to the announcement.
He said it will help not only with the supply of affordable housing in the city, but will also go toward the "huge bill" for social housing repairs that Tory identified in 2016.
"Here in Toronto, this strategy and funding will help us repair our social housing more and this will keep a roof — a proper and a fit roof — over the heads of 60,000 Toronto households. It was simply not sensible for property taxpayers alone to undertake these repairs, not was it right not to make the repairs," he said Wednesday.
The details of the $40 billion investment in the 10-year national housing strategy were unveiled in the city's Lawrence Heights neighbourhood — Toronto Community Housing's largest revitalization project, which is currently being transformed into a mixed-income community.
The investment will go towards building 100,000 new affordable housing units nationally, repairing 300,000 units, reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent and providing financial assistance to 300,000 households through the Canada Housing Benefit. That funding won't kick in until after the next federal election.
The plan is good news to Tory, who ahead of the announcement pointed out that the city continues to face an affordable housing crisis, even as tenants who had been relocated for the first phase of a Toronto Community Housing revitalization project at Allenbury Gardens got to move back home Wednesday.
"I'm well aware of the fact that there are too many people in our city who are struggling because of lack of availability of proper housing," Tory said ahead of the announcement.
But while the strategy was met with applause by Toronto's mayor, earlier in the day, the frustrations of housing advocates were on full display with two separate demonstrations taking place in the city.
"People are desperate," said H.A. Withers, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. "Things are incredibly bad. Rents are high. More and more people have to live on the streets. Shelters are full."
Cathy Crowe, a frontline street nurse who works regularly with Toronto's homeless, thinks Wednesday's announcement simply doesn't go far enough.
"The 100,000 over 10 years is not enough ... It's desperately not enough. We have 253,000 people homeless across the country," she said."
In a statement Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão said she was pleased at the launch of the strategy and announced a housing advisory council to "guide Toronto's participation" in its implementation, which will include both external experts and people with experience facing challenges securing housing.