Olivia Chow’s Housing Action Plan

Toronto’s new mayor tackling housing initiatives right out of the gate.

One of the biggest issues that we face today in Toronto is not just a lack of affordable housing, but a lack of housing in general.  The federal government’s immigration policy is responsible for bringing in many new people into Canada every year.  The problem is that a lot of them end up right here in the GTA. So, the question goes round and round: Is this a federal or municipal problem?  I’m sure many of you have seen the refugee shelters that have been popping up in Toronto recently. The tent cities that have been springing up in parks and ravines are a further sign of this homelessness crisis. Clearly, something must happen and soon before this problem worsens further.

Olivia Chow was sworn in as new mayor of Toronto on July 12th. She had outlined a housing and transit action plan many months before taking office, which helped propel her to victory. Her initial pledge was to raise Toronto’s vacant home tax from one per cent to three per cent. The money collected would be used for affordable housing initiatives. Chow has also promised to build 25,000 homes on city-owned land in the next eight years. Those homes would be developed by the city as well, with a minimum of 7,500 affordable units and at least 2,500 units to be rent-geared-to-income.  Additionally, about $5 million would be used to create new 24/7 respite spaces and another $5 million to expand street outreach and drop-in programming. Chow has pledged to spend another $14.6 million on rent supplements for about 1,000 individuals experiencing homelessness to find stable accommodations.

This past week Chow outlined what she called a “first step” in her bid to build 25,000 affordable rental homes, in addition to those already planned for the city. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want to rely on the private sector alone and intends for her government to take an active role in bringing these units to market.  This is certainly going to be an uphill battle to turn this situation around, but it seems like our new mayor isn’t shying away from addressing these issues. Only time will tell if these policies will be effective in combatting the current situation.

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