Affordable Housing Urban Challenge


Our vision is of city where everyone can find housing options that best meet their needs in an affordable way, with a series of different housing arrangements, models, and tenures that provide real choice.

Our vision is of a city where trying to find affordable housing is not a full-time job, one that scares people away from the city and the region. Instead, appropriate housing should be so easy to find it is never a worry or a stress.

Our vision is of a city that welcomes young and old, with a housing system that meets the needs of seniors, children and youth, solo parents, immigrants and refugees, students, persons with disabilities, diverse families, and others; a housing system that allows people to remain in place even when they age, change their family structure, retire, or suffer unforeseen life events.

Our vision is of a city where people are not displaced from where they live because land values have gone up, or because a land owner realizes they can profit from flipping or converting long-term rental units to different uses. Our vision is of a city where rental housing is seen as a positive resource for all of us to help us realize our dreams.

Our vision is of a city in which housing is not something that separates and segregates us, but instead brings us together. The current housing system separates people by income, by gender and family structure, by age, and through racialization. Our current housing crisis is causing undue competition, stress, and trauma for those who need it the most. A proper functioning and affordable housing system mixes people, brings them together, gives them a safe, healthy and secure foundation and provides them a say in how their city is run.

Our vision is of a city in which housing is seen as a human right. one that makes us all better for it, one that we protect because it is the right thing to do.

Our vision is of a city in which housing is a key ingredient in making people feel like they belong. You – we – all belong here.

The University of Toronto School of Cities is uniquely poised to conduct research that can help realize this vision. The University of Toronto has over 750 urban researchers across a multitude of disciplines whose areas of expertise are necessary to provide a wholistic, multi-faceted solution to achieving affordability.

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!

As we head into colder months and a second heightened wave of the pandemic, the AHCP collective are adding our voices to the rounds of housing advocates, activists and city residents calling upon all levels of government to immediately prioritize the protection of tenants and finding safe housing solutions for people who have been unhoused. In the city of Toronto, the combined force of months of insufficient support for tenants, the cancellation of the eviction moratorium, the return to Landlord Tenant Board hearings and evictions, and the City of Toronto’s program of encampment removal, are pushing residents into a dire situation. Strong action is urgently needed around these issues. We stand with tenants and with encampment residents facing the uncertainty of the months ahead, and join the call to end the forced removal of people from their homes.


The Affordable Housing Blog 

May 22, 2020

Toronto's Quiet Streets Initiative brings up important questions of public-private binaries in COVID-19 times and beyond. Loren March asks what is a home, exactly. And if ‘staying home’ has been deemed a primary point of defense against the spread of COVID-19, what does that mean for the homeless?

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June 17, 2020

A recent wave of police brutality in North American cities, including the killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, and most recently Rayshard Brooks, has ignited what we might consider a global uprising against anti-Black racism and police brutality. Loren March examines how white supremacy is deeply entangled with housing in the Canadian context, and how can we move towards an anti-racist housing agenda. 

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October 6, 2020

Despite public calls for social unity during COVID-19, the fragmented reality of the housing crisis in Toronto has been further exposed and stark housing inequalities have become more visible as people struggle to pay rent, retain their housing, and secure healthy and safe places to stay during the pandemic. Loren March reflects on the meaning of home and the precarity of renting during the pandemic. 

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