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The One Percent Solution

What is the One Percent Solution?

The One Percent Solution was launched in 1998 by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC). It is based on the finding of Prof. David Hulchanski of the University of Toronto that, in the mid-1990s, federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments spent about one percent of their budgets on housing. Since then, governments have made substantial housing cuts. The One Percent Solution calls on governments to double their commitment to housing programs by restoring and renewing housing spending. A multi-year commitment is required.

Photo courtesy of Erin George.

The One Percent Solution has three recommendations:

1.      Funding of $2 billion federally, and another $2 billion among provinces and territories.

2.      Restoring and renewing national, provincial and territorial programs aimed at resolving the housing crisis and  homelessness disaster.

3.      Extension of the federal homelessness strategy (Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative) with immediate funding for new and expanded shelter and services across the country.

There are five key components of the One Percent Solution:

  • supply (new social housing supply),

  • affordability (rent supplements for low-income households in new and existing social units), 

  • supports (additional supportive housing units),

  • rehabilitation (acquisition and conversion of substandard units to social housing), and

  • emergency relief (double annual spending on services and shelter for the homeless).

There is broad agreement about the key elements of a new national housing program. For instance, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has the following recommendations:

  • 20,000 units of new housing, 10,000 units of rehabilitated housing,   

  • $300 million to ramp up the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement,

  • $150 million for homelessness initiatives,

  • $500 million over five years for a new housing rehabilitation fund.

Policy formation, program design is the next step

The One Percent Solution campaign will provide an opportunity to refine the specific elements of the One Percent Solution, program design details and costs. Community based groups that provide housing and services for the homeless, those at risk of homelessness and low-income tenants will be part of the policy formation and program design process.

Positive momentum towards the One Percent Solution

Education and advocacy by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, the National Housing and Homelessness Network, and other allies have led to significant responses by the federal government:

·         Additional funding for the rehabilitation of substandard housing through the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and program design changes in 1999.

·         Development of the federal homelessness strategy in 1999 ($753 million for services and temporary shelter over three years).

·         Establishment of the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement in 2001 ($680 million for new affordable housing over five years – the first new federal funding since 1993).

·         Growth in the number of housing and homelessness initiatives in a number of Ontario municipalities (Ottawa, York, Waterloo, London, Hamilton, and Toronto). Also in other municipalities outside Ontario.

·         Positive developments at the provincial level in Quebec and Manitoba in the past few years.

Although total funding is well short of the $2 billion goal, a growing number of housing projects and services have been created across Canada. There is positive momentum, especially at the federal and municipal levels, for more funding and stronger housing programs.

Provinces haven’t lived up to housing agreement

In November of 2001, the federal government joined with the provinces and territories in signing the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement. Under this agreement, the federal government promised to pay $680 million over five years for new housing. The provinces and territories agreed to provide matching funding. The new deal was a welcome development, especially after years of funding cuts at the federal level and in almost every province except for Quebec. But there are several major problems with the roll-out of this agreement:

·        while the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement calls on the funds to be targeted to low and moderate-income renter households, some provinces are using average market rents to define affordable rents.

·        a number of provinces have taken advantage of loopholes in the framework agreement and refused to provide provincial matching dollars.

·        provincial spending estimates show that six of the ten provinces cut housing spending in 2002-2003, which means that the new federal money is simply replacing provincial dollars, leading to no net gain in new housing.

The One Percent solution campaign will focus attention on provincial and territorial governments, as well as the federal and municipal roles.


1. Endorse the One Percent Solution: Encourage others in your community to endorse the Solution. Endorse Now! Also show your support by wearing the 1% Solution button. To order a quantity of 1% buttons, contact us. Buttons cost $1/button. We will fill orders of 20 or more. You can recover your costs by selling them at your local event. 

2. Contact elected officials at the municipal, provincial and federal level:  Invite them to your local events. Organize a group visit. Write letters to them or call. Use opportunities like special holiday meals to organize a letter writing session; provide paper, pens, stamped envelopes, and sample messages at meetings and events.  Be sure to keep the government officials informed of the local struggles in your area and ask what they are doing to end homelessness.  When they receive more than a few visits or letters about any subject, they sit up and take note.

3. Raise awareness: Organize a forum; display a banner in prominent location; poster empty buildings or construction sites; respond to local emergencies; organize site visits to homeless programs or housing projects with political leaders and the media to highlight the ways that your community is successfully or inadequately addressing our housing crisis and homelessness disaster. Be creative!

4. Use the media to help spread the word: Encourage prominent people in your community to write an op-ed piece or letter to the editor.  Invite media to your community events. Something as simple as calls to media communicating your concern for homeless people in your area or supporting or opposing a recent story can influence how the issue in covered in the future.

5. Prepare for Upcoming Elections: The federal elections are drawing near. Work with others to ensure housing is a key election issue.

6. Build housing: Faith groups, unions, and community groups have contributed to our affordable housing stock. Even a single unit on church property, for example, can help to emphasize the need and show how easily and cheaply it can be done.

7. Please keep in touch with us about your participation in the campaign.

For more information on the Campaign, contact TDRC at