We at the Affordable Housing Challenge Project would like to express our solidarity with those currently struggling with housing challenges in the midst of this ongoing global pandemic. As we continue our critical work around housing, we would like to underline some of our emerging concerns as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in our community. In Toronto’s case, unaffordable rents, housing precarity, and homelessness have already been pushing residents to the brink. Yet, widespread calls for people to “stay home” highlight how access to housing might be the key “frontline defense” against the virus and thus necessary to our collective health and wellbeing. But what is being done to help those living in homes that are precarious, overcrowded, poorly maintained, or emotionally and/or physically unsafe? The framing of housing as a safeguard against disease, and the inherent assumption that everyone has a home to stay in, ignores serious inequities, vulnerabilities, and gaps in housing. What measures are being taken to ensure people the access to housing among these vulnerable groups?
As current health and containment measures are likely to be in place for some time, we urge policy-makers to consider how these very serious and pressing housing issues will require long-term and sustainable measures to keep us all safe. If shelters in Toronto are already stretched to capacity, what is the fate of the city’s homeless population under the emerging circumstances? Will money for homeless shelters and shelters for persons fleeing domestic violence be sustained beyond short-term emergency funding? With respect to rental housing, how will the eviction moratorium be enforced and how will it apply across the wide range of different rental arrangements, including short-term and vacation rentals? How are strained landlord-tenant relations to be mediated in the absence of the Landlord Tenant Board? What happens to people after the moratorium is lifted? What will be the long-term consequences of not paying rent? How will affordable units be protected for the long-term? These are just some of the emerging issues that need to be explicitly addressed as we collectively work through this crisis.
All this being said, at the AHCP we have taken steps to conduct our work in a way that ensures the safety of our team and those engaged with our work. As such, we have postponed all events until further notice. In the meantime, we are trying to find ways to direct our energies towards helping those currently facing housing challenges. Thank you for continuing to follow our work, and please stay safe!