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Waiting lists for affordable housing in Ontario have swelled to a record 158,445 households, including almost 72,700 in Toronto.
Crystallee Hollihan and her two children are being evicted from their Gerrard E. home in Toronto because the owners want the space for themselves.
Waiting lists for affordable housing in Ontario continued their “slow and steady climb” in 2012 despite the province’s modest economic gains, says a new report being released Tuesday.
Almost 158,500 households — including about 72,700 in Toronto —were waiting for affordable homes as of December last year, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association’s annual waiting list survey.
The number represents more than 3 per cent of Ontario households, the highest rate since the association began collecting statistics in 2003, the report notes.
The association’s members operate more than 163,000 non-profit units in 220 communities across the province. To meet the need they would have to almost double the supply of rent-geared-to income housing, the report says.
The federal-provincial affordable housing program is helping to create about 1,500 new affordable rental units annually in Ontario, said the association’s executive director Sharad Kerur. But relatively few are affordable to low-income households on affordable housing waiting lists who are paying between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their incomes on rent, he said.
“Aging baby boomers, stagnant wages and population growth are steadily driving demand,” Kerur said.
“New units aren’t being built and all levels of government need to take greater responsibility to keep existing stock in good repair.”
Toronto Community Housing Corp., which operates 58,500 units, is facing a $862 million repair backlog that could triple in the next decade if the city does not begin to tackle the problem, a recent staff report warns.
As a result, Toronto City Council on Wednesday is being asked to endorse a first-ever 10-year, $2.6 billion capital financing plan that includes $864 million in city funds. The plan is calling on Ottawa and Queen’s Park to share the remaining two-thirds of the repair bill. But so far, neither government has stepped up.
The 1.3-per-cent waiting list increase over last year is the lowest since numbers began to climb in 2007, the association’s report says.
But the “affordability gap,” which measures what low-income tenants can afford versus what they can pay, has deepened over the past decade. About one in five Ontario tenants are now in “persistent core housing need,” the highest rate in the country, the report says. It means these tenants have been paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent for three or more years in a row.
The 18,378 households that moved in to affordable housing across Ontario last year were waiting an average of 3.2 years, the association’s report notes. But wait times vary significantly by community and household type.
In Peel, the average wait was about eight and a half years. In York Region, the wait was almost six years, while in Toronto, households waited an average of five years.
Many households wait longer due to the size and location of the unit they need. And many applications are cancelled because applicants fail to keep their records up to date, the report says.
Toronto single mother Crystallee Hollihan says she applied for affordable housing in 2003 when her daughter was born and again in 2005 after the birth of her son.
But when she contacted waiting list staff in Sept. after receiving an eviction notice, she was told there was no record of her application.
Several days later, she was told her application was back-dated to 2010, but that it was unlikely she could get a three-bedroom apartment by Dec. 1, when she has to be out of her semi-detached house in the city’s east end. The owners want the space for themselves.
“I was told three-bedroom units are hard to get and that I should consider a smaller unit,” said Hollihan, 27, who is on social assistance due to an anxiety disorder but has never missed a rent payment.
With an eight-year-old son and a daughter who will soon be 10, however, she doesn’t know how that would work.
Hollihan is waiting to hear about a three-bedroom apartment in Scarborough she is hoping to rent for $1,400 a month. But it means that almost all of her $1,550 monthly assistance cheque will be going to rent.
If it wasn’t for federal and provincial child and tax benefits that amount to about $1,000 a month, Hollihan doesn’t know what she would do.
“I’m tapped out,” she said. “I’m going to food banks and churches for help. I just don’t know what else to do.”
Ontario Affordable Housing Waiting List*
By the Numbers
158,445 Number of households waiting
18,378 Number of households housed
40,074 Number of applications cancelled
62,094 Number of new applications
8 Average number of years a non-senior Toronto household waited for a one-bedroom unit
20 Percentage of Ontario households paying more than 30 per cent of their income on housing for three or more years.
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