Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite said housing is a focal point in election platforms this year.
He said it is positive that all the parties are promising to bump up the amounts of social assistance for people in need. The head of the locally based, non-profit emergency housing organization said the vulnerable need help to secure places to live.
“People can’t afford to buy homes. Our most vulnerable can’t afford to rent homes,” he said, adding that government supports has not kept up with prices. “There’s a huge gap in what people have to spend on housing.”
The provincial election has put a renewed spotlight on affordable housing, with parties making promises to improve the situation and housing supply. Local housing advocates are calling for more purpose-built rentals and help for residents to afford homes, with prices in York Region and elsewhere spiking.
Social Planning Council of York Region co-chair Yvonne Kelly — a former NDP candidate — said rent control is a needed provision, and the Greens, NDP and Liberals have included it in their platforms. She said the controls should prevent landlords from kicking out tenants and bringing in new ones at higher rates.
She said the Conservatives have focused on foreign speculation and housing supply, but there is also a need to watch for domestic speculation. She added that supply is important, but it needs to be the right type.
“We have to get serious about building more purpose-built, affordable rentals,” Kelly said.
Braithwaite said likewise, adding that although supply and municipal processing are issues, there is a need to understand what type of supply is necessary.
“We need a lot more rent-geared-to-income and rent subsidized, or it just won’t reach affordable,” he said, adding that social supports like Ontario Disability Support Program have not changed much for the past 20 years.
Kelly said governments have to take a distinct role in addressing the matter. She noted that waitlists for affordable housing are at 12 years or significantly longer for those places geared toward disabilities.
“Governments getting out of the way and letting the market take over the housing sector is what’s created this glut, which is why we haven’t had an investment in not-for-profit housing development like we needed to,” she said.
Braithwaite said that regardless of who wins, he hopes that promises of improved income support for the vulnerable are realized quickly.
He said it is also vital for governments to protect existing social rental housing stock, with much of it getting lost to the private market. He said it is important to get new stock in the hands of non-profit housing providers to keep it affordable, rather than just floating that money to for-profit developers.
He urged citizens to vote with affordable housing in mind.
“People need truly affordable housing, and they need it now. Let’s exercise that right to vote and get it done.”