Our guest blogger this week is Pedro Barata,Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at United Way Toronto. He has experience working within, and across, a variety of settings: from community-based organizations, to strategic philanthropy, and various levels of government.
The conversation about affordable housing is not new to Torontonians. But some of us might be surprised to learn that there are residents in our city who wait almost 10 years before being offered an affordable home.
According to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association’s annual report, the province’s wait lists grew by more than 6,600 households to a record 165,069 in 2013. This is the largest single-year increase since 2010.
It’s time for a fresh approach. The GTA Housing Action Lab is an initiative of Evergreen CityWorks that brings together a number of partners across a variety of sectors, including United Way Toronto, to build a more sustainable, affordable and equitable housing system.
By working together to find common ground among our collective programs, policies and practices, the GTA Housing Action Lab aims to create:
- Programs and policies that support the affordability of housing to ensure residents of all incomes have the best chance to live in a suitable home and have a choice in their housing.
- A more sustainable housing system in the region by increasing public support for intensification, awareness of the benefits of complete communities, and policies that support creative infill in our urban centres and a connected region.
- A policy and regulatory framework that encourages diversity in form and tenure, intensification and affordability and creates incentives aligned with the needs of the residents of the region while creating an economically-viable housing sector.
Innovative approaches to affordable housing require leadership and collaboration from multiple partners. At a forum convened by the GTA Housing Action Lab on November 19, former President and Chief Executive Officer of TD Bank Group Ed Clark, added his voice to the conversation.
Clark called for leadership from all sectors to put affordable housing on the public policy radar. He talked about the need to support innovative and new approaches to old problems and pointed to the role that non-profit organizations and programs can play in this respect.
Habitat for Humanity, Egale, Woodgreen’s Homeward Bound and United Way’s Toronto Enterprise Fund are demonstrating concrete ways in which we can help break the cycle of poverty and take a holistic, collaborative approach to addressing not just the symptoms of poverty—but the root causes.
Hopefully, this will inspire public policy support to scale these examples to the benefit of more and more people.
Bringing home solutions for affordable housing is a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight. But as Ed Clark says, “No one should sleep on a slab of cement.”
And change is up to all of us.