Housing Crisis for Low-Income Families in Toronto

University of Toronto researchers released a report yesterday pointing to the desperate situation many low-income families are facing in Toronto.  The report entitled “Nowhere Else to Go: Inadequate Housing & Risk of Homelessness Among Families in Toronto’s Aging Rental Buildings” is written by Emily Paradis, Ruth Marie Wilson & Jennifer Logan and highlights a homelessness crisis waiting to happen in number of Toronto communities.  Most importantly, it puts the spotlight on the hidden homeless – those living in overcrowded housing, inadequate housing, or couch surfing.  This is a group that often remains invisible as many people respond to the individuals they see on the street – but it is clear the problem is much bigger.

Based on a survey of 1,566 people from rental and social housing apartments in inner-city neighbourhoods, the results show that almost 9 in 10 families are at risk of homelessness and living in inadequate housing.  If families are not living in overcrowded spaces (in a building meant for 13,000 people, there are now 30,000 people), then people are struggling with pests or poorly maintained units.   The researchers also found that low-income families facing eviction often do not use shelters but rather stay with friends or family.

Another key finding was that education levels or employment does not keep families from poverty or living in these desperate conditions.  The report notes, “Two thirds of all families in the study report employment as their main source of household income. Most have completed postsecondary education. In spite of this, 80 percent have incomes below the poverty line.”

Recommendations in the report focus on four areas:

  1. Housing First approach cemented in a national housing strategy
  2. A portable housing benefit
  3. Ensuring a percentage of all  new units built are reserved for affordable housing
  4. Cities should strengthen enforcement of maintenance and living standards.

Adequate housing is a human right and critical for health and well-being.  Studies such as this one highlight the need to look beyond visible issues to the root of the problem – poverty, high costs of living, poor employment options, and lack of opportunity to name a few.

Media articles on this report:

Toronto Star “Highrise hell for low-income families in Toronto”

CBC Toronto Interview with Emily Paradis “High Rise Study”

Full report available here.