Toronto.com: Advocates at East York rally call for more inexpensive housing

Posted July 11, 2018

A retiree worried about the future and a man down on his luck worry about being pushed out of Toronto.
 
They joined members and supporters of tenant advocacy group ACORN at a rally in front of an East York apartment building on Thursday, July 5, calling for more affordable housing in the city.
 
“My rent is already high right now at about $1,200 and it goes up every year. I’m on a pension; pretty much all my money goes into rent. I have to survive somehow after that,” said Loretta Young, who has been living in her apartment north of Danforth Village for the last 20 years.
 
“We’re not even talking about other expenses yet, like grocery and doing the laundry. I don’t get to save much. I don't know if I’d be able to pay for rent in the years ahead,” the 70-year-old added.
 
Don C. was one of the speakers at the rally.
 
Declining to give his last name, he said he has had to borrow from payday lenders to pay his rent.
 
“You know, part of me is ashamed. I know it’s expensive (to borrow), but I had no choice,” he said. “It’s either that and pay the rent or get kicked out of my apartment. There’s no joke that everyone in Toronto has a side hustle.”
 
Don said helping low-income families deal with skyrocketing rents will lead to mixed neighbourhoods that are composed of people from all walks of life.
 
“That’s how you build a livable city,” he said.
 
It’s part of the reason why ACORN wants the city to redefine what “affordable” means.
 
“We’re in the midst of a housing crisis,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, spokesperson for the organization’s East York chapter, adding that for many people, the situation is like “living in an avalanche.”
 
The city says a place is considered affordable when the total monthly shelter cost — heat and hydro included — is at or below average market rent (AMR) by unit type, which is reported every year by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
 
The AMR for a one-bedroom unit in Toronto is 
$1,202, while the rate for a two-bedroom — which would be more ideal for families — can go upwards of $1,400.
 
Ruiz Vargas said affordability should be based on income, not the market rate.
 
She wants the city to use tools such as inclusionary zoning — which has worked wonders in big cities like New York that once faced similar housing issues — to introduce new, affordable rental units into the market.
 
In a study released by the organization last week, the city’s data shows that for every 40 units created for rental purposes between 2014 and 2017 in Toronto and East York, including Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) and Ward 31 (Beaches-East York), only one unit fits the city’s affordable definition.
 
That means only 2.5 per cent of the units built in those neighbourhoods were affordable rentals.
 
“Affordable to who? It’s not good for the people. as many can’t afford market rate,” Ruiz Vargas said, noting that good intentions alone won’t be enough to solve the crisis.
 
“We have the tools, but now we need the willpower,” she said.
 
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Article by Bambang Sadewo for Toronto.com