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'We have a lot more to do' with affordable housing, Tory admits

Coun. Ana Bailão, Mayor John Tory, and Coun. Pam McConnell arrive at Regent Park for a housing announcement on July 7, 2016. CITYNEWS/Cynthia Mulligan

Mayor John Tory announced some financial relief for 550 families on Toronto’s housing wait list, but admitted “we have a lot more to do.”

“Far too many people, from seniors to single people to people with disabilities to newcomers, simply can’t find safe, suitable, affordable housing. We need to make much more progress on this, much faster, at City Hall,” Tory said at Regent Park on Thursday.

The city will be giving $250 per month to the families for rent so they can afford to continue to live in their homes while maintaining their position on the wait list.

“The challenge of finding an affordable place is one of the biggest [issues] that we face as a great city,” Tory said at Regent Park on Thursday.

“There is a real and growing divide between those who can afford to live and work here, and those who can’t.”

Tory spoke alongside councillors Pam McConnell and Ana Bailão. McConnell represents Regent Park and Bailão is the city’s housing advocate. Tory said the change in government was one reason for Thursday’s announcement.

“There’s been a lack of will, to say the least, at City Hall in recent years. In 2014, zero affordable housing units were approved by council,” Tory said.

In 2015, 228 homes were approved, he said, and another 294 homes will be debated at council next week.

Bailão said it was not just a change at City Hall, but a change at the federal level that allowed for more money for housing. The $250 is paid for by the provincial and federal governments.

Thursday’s announcement marked the first new housing allowances given to families since 2012, Tory said.

The money is not a rent subsidy and as such, is not tied to a particular unit. Families can move if they choose. Toronto currently provides allowances to 4,000 families.

The allowance goes to families who need it most, the city said: 500 of the allowances will go to families with three or more children who have been on the waiting list for 10 years or more and 50 will go to families who need wheelchair accessible units who have been on the waiting list for eight years or more.

There are still 97,000 households on the housing wait list.