Cuts Coming to Toronto Low-Income Housing Program
Budget projections from Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) anticipate steep funding cuts from the city, even as the same document notes more people in the city are experiencing “chronic homelessness.”
The SSHA budget indicates the city’s emergency shelters, 24-hour respite sites and 24-hour drop-ins are overwhelmed, noting: "Since the beginning of 2020, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Toronto’s shelter system has increased by approximately 500 people."
Toronto’s shelters have been operating above 90 per cent capacity for years – with those who use the system packed close together, providing almost no privacy or even personal space.
Yet, according to SSHA’s budget projections, the agency is set to see its budget fall from $1,252.5 million in 2022 to $997.1 million in 2023 – a cut of over $200 million – even though it does not project a decline in its clients.
According to the budget’s Cost Outlook, this expenditure cut is to be achieved by a “reversal of COVID-19 response expenses of $288.335 million” which worked to ensure facilities followed public health guidelines, and a “Decrease in 100 per cent funded social housing programs.”
Additionally, the budget forecasts a cut in the system’s capital repair budget — from $207.669 million to $184.993 million by 2024.
Asked about this projection, a spokesperson for the city acknowledged: “Despite continually adding new beds, the shelter system is at or near capacity most nights.”
But the spokesperson further noted:
“Through 2022, the City has continued to experience significant and unprecedented financial impacts both in the form of added costs and revenue losses as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. SSHA is projecting an unfavourable net expenditure variance of $78.9 million by year-end 2022 primarily attributed to higher than planned expenditures for the COVID-19 response and underachieved revenues due to non-receipt of federal revenue to support the City’s 2022 Refugee Response initiative.”
Community leaders say the planned, apparent cuts will harm the vulnerable.
“These cuts are deeply troubling,” said Trevor Manson, secretary co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition.
“Last time we checked, the waiting-list for subsidized/RGI [Rent-Geared-to-Income] housing in Toronto was approaching 80,000 names with a wait time of between 10-12 years,” Manson said.
“We’re already in a housing crisis, and these cuts will mean more names on the waiting list, longer wait times, and more people being evicted into homelessness and desperation.”
This article appears in the December 2022 - January 2023 Issue. A longer version was originally published by PressProgress and is available at pressprogress.ca.