Toronto

City aims to stem rooming house 'crisis' with $1.5M pilot project

Councillors voted Wednesday to explore a pilot project that could provide more than $1 million to a non-profit to buy and renovate a Parkdale rooming house.

Councillors vote to explore proposal to help non-profit buy a Parkdale rooming house

Joshua Barndt, executive director of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, is among those pleased the pilot received council backing, saying the loss of rooming houses is a 'crisis.' (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

In Parkdale, "for sale" signs and renovated homes are a common sight.

And poverty advocates say as homes in the area are gobbled up by investors and families, rooming houses are disappearing — leaving low-income tenants in the lurch.

Now, city council is aiming to prevent that. On Wednesday, councillors voted to explore a pilot project that could provide more than $1 million to a non-profit to buy and renovate a Parkdale rooming house.

Coun. Gord Perks, who is championing the innovative proposal, said it will create a pot of money, including $1.5 million available in Ward 14, along with other federal and provincial funding sources.

The goal, he said, is for organizations to more quickly "buy a rooming house before it's sold to someone else and all the tenants get evicted."

With council's support, the project heads to the affordable housing committee for consideration next month — and Perks hopes it will be successful enough to broaden beyond one home.

Parkdale has some 198 rooming houses, according to a neighbourhood groups study, but many are at risk as the neighbourhood gentrifies. (John Rieti/CBC)

Kicked out tenants 'may become homeless'

Joshua Barndt, executive director of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust (PNLT), is among those pleased the pilot received council backing, saying the loss of rooming houses is a "crisis."

"For tenants, many of whom are on fixed income, they cannot afford those new rents," he said. "Being kicked out of their housing means they may become homeless."

Last year, a study from the organization found at least 28 rooming houses have been sold off over the last decade — leading to the loss of units for around 350 people.

The PNLT is now concerned more than a quarter of the 198 rooming houses left in the west-end neighbourhood will disappear in the next five years, forcing the eviction of their tenants.

"It's important we buy some of these buildings and transition them to non-profit housing," Barndt said. "We have to find creative strategies."

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca