Down, But Not Out

An introspective examination of the tragedy of homelessness in the richest society ever to exist on Earth

Homelessness is not an accident. Homelessness is not a problem. Homelessness is a political agenda. Why else would there be so many homeless people in the richest country that ever existed on the face of this planet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

United Nations Condemns Canadian Housing Policy

On Friday October 15, 2007 there was a public forum hosted by the Wellesley Institute, with Miloon Kothari, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, along with representatives of Aboriginal, women and homeless groups. We we were there to hear Miloon set out the details of his fact-finding mission and the international right to adequate housing. Local experts set out the issues and solutions for Toronto. Toronto Star report

The lead editorial in the Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, issue of The Toronto Star contained a powerful piece by Elaine Carey and backs the preliminary observations by Miloon Kothari, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, and sets out a strong call to action. The piece is reprinted below. There was consistently good media coverage of Miloon’s mission to Canada , a question was raised in Parliament on Thursday and the media (at least the Star) hasn’t let this important mission fade.

Non-governmental groups should incorporate Miloon’s preliminary observations into our work leading up to the next federal budget.

While Miloon has completed the first stage of his fact-finding mission to Canada with the release of his preliminary observations on Monday, the second – and critically important – stage has begun. Miloon is preparing a detailed country report with a series of specific recommendations to the Government of Canada. This will be debated at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council – the highest human rights body within the United Nations – in a few months.

Miloon has asked for any additional information – statistics, stories, recommendations for action – that non-governmental groups want to pass along. Please stay tuned for details.

Here’s the Star piece:

TOronto STar – EDITORIAL

A 3-point strategy for better housing Oct 28, 2007

Canadians really didn't need a United Nations envoy to tour the country and announce that CanadaCanada 's major cities to overcrowded shelters and rotting public housing buildings. urgently needs to tackle its affordable housing crisis. The signs of it are everywhere, from homeless beggars on the streets of

But the visit last week by Miloon Kothari , the UN's special rapporteur on adequate housing, did shine a spotlight on the shocking lack of affordable housing options in a country as rich as Canada. Successive federal and provincial governments have pledged to address the problem, but all have fallen far short of meeting the growing demand for reasonably priced housing for low-income families and individuals. What is lacking is a co-ordinated federal-provincial housing strategy, in effect a national plan that would ensure every Canadian has a decent place to call home. Such a blueprint must take a three-pronged approach: new construction of affordable homes, rent subsidies and renovation of existing homes. The three areas need to be tackled together, not in isolation or in any prescribed order. Rather, a holistic approach is best suited to addressing the problem. As a key leg of the three-pronged strategy, it is imperative that Ottawa kick-start a renewed national housing program with a goal of building up to 200,000 affordable and co-operative housing units over the next 10 years. The homes are needed in cities, rural areas and native reserves. Ottawa effectively got out of the affordable housing sector in 1993 when it downloaded the area to the provinces. Because of that, only a few major programs have been funded. The result is that in the past decade, fewer than one new affordable rental unit has been built for every 100 new homes. And overall rental construction is lagging. Across Ontario , up to 12,000 new rental apartments are needed annually, three times what has been built each year between 2000 and 2005. The consequences are felt most acutely in the Greater Toronto Area where only 2,000 new affordable rental units have been built in the past five years, while more than 67,000 people remain on waiting lists. The second leg of the strategy should be a greatly expanded rent supplement program. Obviously, new affordable housing cannot be built fast enough to meet existing demand. That's why paying subsidies to put low-income residents into vacant rental units is necessary. While some housing advocates view rent supplements as a short-term measure that does not solve the overall problem, such subsidies do provide temporary support and needed housing for those in desperate need. Currently, a family of four receives a shelter allowance of only $544 to cover rent. However, the average market rent in Toronto has risen to $1,052 for a two-bedroom apartment. During the recent election campaign, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised a new $100-a-month rent supplement program to help 27,000 Ontario families. That is a welcome first step, but it should only be an initial step. More assistance will be needed because McGuinty's plan will still leave thousands of families scrambling for help to pay their rent. The third part of the strategy would be a major commitment to renovate public housing that is aging and falling into disrepair. In Toronto alone, the city's 58,000 units of public housing require an estimated $300 million in repairs. Many of those buildings are now more than 50 years old, with plumbing that leaks and ceilings that are cracked. The preferred way to deal with this issue is for Queen's Park to upload the cost of renovations. When the Conservative government under Mike Harris downloaded the cost of social housing to municipalities in 2001, it refused to give the cities the money needed to deal with repairs. McGuinty should make reversing this policy the first priority of his re-elected government. Together, these measures would form the basis of a federal-provincial affordable housing strategy that would go a long way toward helping the neediest among us – those who cannot work, single parents and the working poor – have a better life.

1 comment:

Toronto condos said...

Although I work as a Toronto real estate agent , I am quite glad to see something is happening in this context... Anyway, I am sure that there are many, many more countries that have much worser housing situation as the one here in Canada, I am sure external pressure is always useful in this way. Discussing the problem should push thing forward. It is like some kind of stimulation, not only for the government, which has limited its powers over this sphere, but more importantly, for NGO whose influence is on the rise anyway. Solving of the problems should be pretty much coordinated to avoid other social problems..Altough, there are more factors alonside the problem with housing in Canada like e.g. immigration and immigration poicy... To sum up, the point is that I am glad to see this post, but it is hard to think in context of the globalized world that everything is in our hands...that is what should we accustomed to anyway.

Elli