Mayor John Tory, along with several of his counterparts from across the country, demanded billions of dollars in aid Friday from provincial and federal governments to address the affordable housing crisis facing Canadian cities.
"Housing issues are complex, the need is great, but we can take action," Tory told the 2016 Toronto Housing Summit, which included mayors from Vancouver, Edmonton, and several other large Canadian cities.
Tory and the other mayors are calling for more than $12 billion in federal infrastructure funding to go to public housing — a significant part of the $20-billion fund the federal government has already promised.
Concerned that there might not be enough funding to cover housing, the mayors told Jean Yves Duclos, the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, there's a need for a national housing strategy.
Overwhelmingly large demand
While affordable housing is an issue affecting many Canadian cities, the situation is particularly dire in this city as Toronto Community Housing (TCH) already can't meet the overwhelmingly large demand.
Families have to wait up to nearly a decade to get under a roof, and the waiting list already has more than 97,000 households, or 170,000 people, on it.
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On top of that, TCH also has a $2.6-billion repair backlog.
"We can't be looking some of our most vulnerable citizens in the eye and saying, 'I'm terribly sorry your housing unit is going to be closed for lack of proper repair money,'" Tory said.
'Stakes are very real'
To get its 10-year rehabilitation plan on track, Toronto says it needs more than $1.6-billion from the provincial and federal governments. Without that money, 4,000 units could be closed by 2017.
However, Duclos says the federal government has already given Toronto $154 million to deal with the affordable housing crisis.
"That is going to make it possible for Toronto to address the most urgent needs of our communities," Duclos said. "That being said, we know there are other needs that will need to be filled in the longer term."
Tory says "the stakes are very real'" if the public housing crisis isn't addressed.
"When our housing is under strain, we all know other parts of our system suffer," Tory said. "It actually costs us more not to act than to act, and I mean that both financially and socially."