[Hpn] More tenants find they can't afford the rent

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Wed, 3 Sep 2003 05:45:37 -0400


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September 3, 2003 01:00 AM The Toronto Star
More tenants find they can't afford the rent
Homelessness on rise as a result

Affordable housing answer: city report

KERRY GILLESPIE
CITY HALL BUREAU

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.)