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More tenants find they can't afford the rent

Homelessness on rise as a result
Affordable housing answer: city report

Toronto Star - September 3, 2003
by Kerry Gillespie

More than half the households in Toronto and about a quarter in the 905 regions rent, and an increasing number can't afford what they have to pay.

There are now 71,000 Toronto families and singles waiting for government-subsidized housing — that's up 11,000 over last year. And in the 905 regions, there are tens of thousands waiting to live in a home they can afford.

Toronto rents have risen by more than 30 per cent since 1997, despite Ontario's partial rent control system, which regulates how much rents in occupied apartments can rise each year.

Nearly 32,000 different people stayed in Toronto's homeless shelters in 2002, and 4,779 of them were children. Those numbers are down slightly from 2001.

These are among the findings of Toronto's report card on housing and homelessness that was released yesterday and will be debated on Monday at the community services committee.

While rents rise annually, incomes for many have not even kept up with inflation.

"If incomes are down and rents are up, it's not surprising that more people are homeless," Tanya Gulliver, a homeless advocate, said at the news conference where the city's report was released.

The largest growing group of shelter users are families with children, and having a job isn't the protection it once was against winding up in the shelter system.

A mom with two kids employed full-time at minimum wage makes just over $1,000 a month before deductions while the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,037, Gulliver pointed out.

"You can see how her debt and the likelihood of her missing a rent payment grows," Gulliver said.

"The only solution to solving homelessness is the building of more (affordable) housing," she said.

Gulliver isn't alone in thinking this. Eric Gam, commissioner of community and neighbourhood services, John Andras, president of the Rotary Club of Toronto, and Councillor Olivia Chow all spoke yesterday outside a west-end housing project about the desperate need for provincial, federal and municipal government funding.

A call for more money to solve the crisis in affordable housing isn't new.

This is the third time Toronto has released a report card on homelessness since Anne Golden's 1999 report on homelessness, which called for 2,000 affordable rentals and 1,000 supportive housing units to be built each year. Only a few hundred of each have been built.

The last report card on homelessness was in 2001 and while there have been funding announcements galore since then, little of the money has made it to construction sites yet and little has changed for the people behind the statistics.

"Promises have been made and promises are not kept," said Chow (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina.)

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