Tory welcomes Ontario budget funds for city services, but says Toronto needs money for housing too
City has 'urgent need' for funding to operate supportive housing, mayor says
Mayor John Tory says he is pleased that the provincial budget pledged money for city services, vaccination costs, tourism and small businesses, but noted that it did not earmark funds for social housing in Toronto in its budget on Wednesday.
"The City does have an urgent need for support from the Provincial government for supportive housing to ensure that we take full advantage of committed federal funding for supportive housing so we can provide safe, indoor spaces for vulnerable residents with the proper health-care supports," Tory said in a news release on Wednesday.
Tory said he spoke with Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on Wednesday afternoon and both agreed they will continue to talk about "further support" for housing in Toronto. That includes social housing, he said.
"In his budget speech, the Minister spoke passionately about the government's commitment to invest in mental health and addictions. Supportive housing addresses mental health, addiction, health-care, and homelessness and I'm confident we will come to an agreement on funding," Tory added.
However, Coun. Mike Layton, who represents Ward 11, University-Rosedale, went further, saying the budget fails to fund supportive housing and fails to address homelessness in Toronto.
"Providing supportive housing is essential to ending the homelessness crisis faced by our city. Yet the province's budget, released this afternoon, fails to commit the funding that Toronto has urgently called for to address the crisis we are facing," Layton said in a news release on Wednesday.
Layton said the city, with federal support, has secured nearly 1,250 new supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness, but 1,100 of the units still require operating funds. He said the province is responsible for funding the affordable housing and providing "wrap around" services required by residents.
'Time is running out,' councillor says
The councillor said $26.45 million is needed this year, the budget did not provide that amount, and there is no commitment for funding for future years.
"Time is running out. If the province doesn't commit this money by next month, we won't be able to open these new units. They are desperately needed by Toronto's residents and the City has already acquired them. We cannot let them sit empty," he said.
Layton noted that around 8,000 people a month use the city's shelter system. He said he plans to bring an item to the city council meeting in April to call for more discussion.
"Ending homelessness is possible, but only if all levels of government prioritize housing first, and possess the political will to make it happen," Layton said.
In his statement, Tory said he is pleased that the budget continues the funding commitments made previously to invest in Toronto to address "our COVID-19 operating costs and pressures."
The mayor said he is also pleased that the province has agreed to cover the city's vaccinations costs by providing $1 billion for Ontario's overall vaccination effort. The city has administered 403,902 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
And Tory said he welcomes the second round of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and the creation of the new Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant to help small businesses, tourism companies and the hospitality sector recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The promise of investments in Digital Main Street, a program started in Toronto, is also good news, Tory said.