AHCP Report: Advancing the Right to Housing In Toronto

As Toronto’s crisis of housing affordability deepens, the need for new approaches to protecting and expanding access to affordable housing is becoming clear. Market-led development is pushing more and more residents into poverty or displacement. A record-breaking supply of new high-rise condos is rebuilding our city, but ownership rates are in decline as most new units are being bought by wealthy investors and rented at painfully high prices. Far from reversing course, the Province continues to gut municipalities’ capacities to intervene — endlessly promising that spurring market-rate housing will eventually address our growing range of housing emergencies. 

A vigorous rethink of how to plan and develop our housing system is desperately needed. This is the task set out by a new solutions-oriented report from the Affordable Housing Challenge Project (AHCP), an initiative of the University of Toronto’s School of Cities. Advancing the Right to Housing in Toronto: Critical Perspectives on the GTA’s Housing Crisis and How to Solve It brings together contributions from over 30 housing scholars and frontline practitioners. Each contributor diagnoses key factors they see driving the crisis and outlines concrete actions that can be implemented now to reroute our unsustainable housing trajectory. 

The report’s authors draw policy lessons from local and international initiatives, advancing a wide range of proposals, including but not limited to: 

  • preserving and protecting existing affordable rental housing, by:
    • re-designing rent controls  
    • strengthening tenants’ rights and organizing capacities 
    • expanding programs and funding to promote non-profit acquisition and rehabilitation of aging apartments 
    • implementing taxes and regulations to deter large “financialized” landlords from acquiring and aggressively “repositioning” (i.e., evicting and gentrifying) entire apartments 
  • expanding access to new affordable housing by:
    • initiating historic increases in funding, financing, and public land dedicated to help non-profits and cooperatives develop more mixed-income social housing faster 
    • strengthening municipalities’ inclusionary zoning powers – ensuring new developments include more than just high-end condos by requiring a substantial portion of units in most new developments are pegged with permanent affordability requirements. 

Published November 2022 by the Affordable Housing Challenge Project, an initiative of the University of Toronto’s School of Cities. Edited by Emily Hawes. Designed by Emily Power. Illustrations by Sunny Singh.

Contributing Authors:

Alex Abramovich, Dennis Archambault, Martine August, Andrea Austen, Shauna Brail, Paula Braitstein, Susannah Bunce, Sean Grisdale, Victoria Haldane, Emily Hawes, Sander Hitzig, Zachary Hyde, Ted Kesik, Nemoy Lewis, Katie MacEntee, Julie Mah, Loren March, Angela Mashford-Pringle, James McQuaid, Emily Paradis, Tam Perry, Sinead Petrasek, Cecelia Pye, Claudia Sanford, Yina Shan, Christine Sheppard, Matti Siemiatycki, Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie, Greg Suttor, Chiyi Tam, Danielle Toccalino, Alan Walks, Jeremy Withers.

Report Launch:

The report launch event was held on December 6, 2022, featuring a panel discussion with report contributors Dr. Nemoy Lewis, Dr. Julie Mah, Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie, and Chiyi Tam, moderated by report editor Emily Hawes. Opening remarks from AHCP Directors, Dr. Susannah Bunce and Dr. Alan Walks. Closing remarks from Dr. Karen Chapple, Director, School of Cities. The event recording is available below.

About the Affordable Housing Challenge Project:

The Affordable Housing Challenge Project is an initiative of the University of Toronto School of Cities. The AHCP collective brings together scholars from across the University of Toronto, who are researching issues related to housing affordability from different disciplinary perspectives, with the objective of working together to research, discuss and debate the causes, processes, policies and consequences of declining housing affordability.