In this newsletter:
1. Thinking Out of the Box in York Region.
2. New Book on Housing.
3. Throne Speech
4. National Housing Day - What you can do!
5. Subscribe to This Newsletter
1. Thinking out of the box in York Region.
I recently spent a day in York Region, a vast region that is three times the
geographic size of Metro Toronto. I toured shelters and met with about 20
front line workers. I was shocked to learn how serious their housing and
homelessness problem is. The region has no shelter for homeless women, no
detox or treatment centre, a six year waiting list for social housing, and
average rents for a room are $450 - $475. Workers described a high cost of
living in the region, a dominating private sector operation of domiciliary
hostels, and an unequal distribution of resources in the area. As a result,
food bank use has increased, motel/hotels are used for family overflow from
shelters and Out of the Cold programs have begun. Most shocking was to learn
the extent to which people are sleeping in cars, provincial parks and
There were two signs of hope. The first, - the workers I met were extremely
informed of the nature of the problem, had a sophisticated analysis of the
economics at the root of the problem and were clearly working well together
to provide legal, shelter and other direct service options for their
clients. Second, was an example of what I call “thinking out of the box”. In
my last newsletter I talked about little houses or portable houses that can
provide decent housing or shelter. Well, Transitional and Supportive Housing
Services of York Region has begun the development of “little houses” – in
fact there will be 15 two-bedroom self-contained Durakit houses that they
will use for families requiring emergency shelter. One house per family. As
well there will be a larger building or lodge for community space for
support services, community resources, housing and job search help, homework
help, dining, laundry and supportive counseling. They
were clear on their logic: privacy, dignity, health. I toured the site.
Thirteen of the houses are up and almost completed. Each has a bathroom with
a tub and a kitchenette. They sit on high ground overlooking fields and Lake
Simcoe . It was pretty moving. Let’s hope funding comes through for
New Book on Housing
I've worked with Michael Shapcott and David Hulchanski for years, and know
many of the other authors. I'm sure that you will find that this book
Finding Room will be both lively and informative. Both David and Michael are
co-founders of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. In fact, David
developed the concept of the 1% solution.
Finding Room is a new housing policy book that provides practical solutions
to Canada 's nation-wide affordable rental housing crisis. The co-editors
are Dr. David Hulchanski, a leading housing scholar, and Michael Shapcott, a
long-time housing advocate. There are 27 chapters written by two dozen
experts from community groups, social housing, private sector and the
government. Toronto Mayor David Miller has written a compelling
introduction. The book is written for people who want to know more about the
range of solutions that are required. More information on the book, some
sample chapters and on-line ordering information is available by logging
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3. Throne Speech
Nice words don't build homes!
The following is the concise text of the National Housing and Homeless
Network’s (NHHN) media release within hours of the October 5 throne speech.
NHHN Media Release - October 5, 2004
Nice words don't build homes!
One-in-five households trapped in nation-wide affordable housing crisis must
continue to wait.
Today's Speech from the Throne has nice words about housing, but there is no
certainty about the federal government's commitment. So, community-based and
municipal housing groups across the country that could start developing new
homes right away must continue to postpone their plans as they wait for
politicians to finally agree to put real dollars into real programs that
will deliver real housing. And homeless people, plus those on the brink of
homelessness, must continue to wait for weeks or months for the new homes
that they so desperately need.
If the Throne Speech had contained specific language, then housing providers
could start to develop new affordable homes right away. Program details
would still need to be negotiated, but in the meantime municipalities and
community-based housing groups would have some certainty to start planning.
Today's Throne Speech doesn't provide any certainty, so planning for new
development must be delayed - yet again.
The National Housing and Homelessness Network and its partners across the
country are looking for commitments from the federal government to:
the funding previously promised by the federal government ($680 million in
November of 2001 and another $320 million in February of 2003 for a total of
$1 billion to be spent over five years) for new social housing;
the spending promised during the recent federal election (an additional $1.5
billion over three years) for new social housing;
reinvest the present
and future surpluses of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in new
ensure that the
housing funding is separate from municipal infrastructure funding (money for
sewers, roads, bridges, etc.).
Overall, we are
asking the federal government to commit $2 billion in new funding for social
housing annually (the One Percent Solution). We are also asking the federal
government to support SCPI (the homelessness program) and RRAP (housing
renovation funding) by providing stable, long-term funding for both.
National Housing Day - What you can do!
National Housing Day has been celebrated across the country since 1999. It
marks the day, November 22 that the Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the
Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) adopted the Disaster
Declaration. In April of 2000, the entire FCM adopted the Disaster
Declaration. The Disaster Declaration is available as are an updated list of
the many events planned across the country on TDRC’s website www.tdrc.net If
you are in the Toronto region consider signing up for the TDRC list serve
for regular updates. Send an email to email@example.com.
Here are a few things you can do to help make housing happen.
► Make a decision to prioritize upstream work: for example on housing or
social assistance rates. The powers that be try to make these issues so
complex. But really it’s about housing the homeless, taking care of our
children and, making sure people have enough money to live on.
► Can you support local projects that are struggling for funding that deal
with long term solutions? I am involved with the Furniture Bank which is
planning to submit a proposal for affordable housing above a new warehouse,
to continue helping people reestablish a home. This integrated community
building project will provide housing for the homeless and employment,
retraining and internships for individuals participating at Furniture Bank,
who are homeless and/or at risk of homelessness.
► Can you participate in National Housing Day on November 22? If you are in
the Toronto region we need people, tents, sleeping bags and donations.
► Consider ordering some 1% buttons from TDRC for your congregation, your
organization or friends and family. Order at
► IF YOU DO ONE THING, THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT: The provincial and
federal housing ministers are meeting in November. As soon as possible,
create a delegation to meet with your MP and MPP and tell them as
graphically as you can what your situation is and why we need monies for
housing, and increased social assistance rates. Resources available at
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Photo Credit: Michelle Vella Photography