Governments must pony up to address affordable housing crisis: Editorial

Mayor John Tory is to host a summit on housing where municipal leaders will demand that federal and provincial governments renew funding for geared-to-income housing.

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Mayor John Tory will host a summit of mayors Friday to discuss housing.  (Melissa Renwick / Toronto Star)

As recently as the 1990s, the federal government did a smart thing. It financed the cost of much-needed geared-to-income housing for lower-income Canadians across the country.

But, wrongly, it gradually downloaded that responsibility to the provinces which, for the most part, then passed it along to cities. That, in turn, has created an affordable housing crisis as municipalities, with their limited resources, struggled to keep up with repairs on the housing stock they currently own. Building new units for hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists across the country is a pipe dream.

Now a “summit” on housing organized by Toronto Mayor John Tory for Friday promises to shine a much-needed spotlight on a national shame that the provincial and federal governments will find tough to ignore.

The summit will bring together in Toronto municipal leaders from across the country, including the mayors of Vancouver and Edmonton. They are all in agreement that the federal government should dedicate most of its promised $20 billion in “social infrastructure” money over 10 years to affordable housing.

While that would mean abandoning plans to spend some of that money other priorities, like child care and recreational facilities, it would at go a long way to addressing a housing crisis that leaves many thousands of people struggling to find a decent, affordable place to live.

It’s a bold plan with a lot of potential benefits.

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