Mayor John Tory, big-city mayors demand $12.6 billion for housing

No promises coming yet from federal, provincial ministers meeting at Friday’s summit.

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Mayor John Tory and municipal leaders, including Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, left; Russell Copeman, Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce; and London Mayor Matt Brown toured Regent Park as part of the Toronto Housing Summit.  (Bernard Weil / Toronto Star)

Residents facing ouster from crumbing social housing units or years on a list for an affordable home will continue waiting for a government commitment to long-term stable funding. Federal and provincial ministers meeting at a summit on Friday made no immediate promises.

But the federal government promised that the roll-out of infrastructure money is just the start of a reinvestment by Ottawa in housing.

“There’s been a decade of underinvestment and lack of partnership with cities,” Liberal MP and former Toronto councillor Adam Vaughan told reporters following a morning of housing talk in Regent Park. “We have changed that fundamentally by putting the new money on the table in 2016. It’s a down-payment for the national housing strategy. We are back in the game federally on housing.”

Provincial Housing Minister Chris Ballard cited previous provincial investments and thanked the federal government for answering the province’s “persistent call” for a national housing strategy. He did not speak to how the province might contribute monetarily to reinvesting in housing long term, and took no questions.

Speaking to the Star by phone after the summit, Ballard said, “We’ll cross the future funding bridge as we get there.”

“Ontario has done a lot. There’s always more to do,” he added, citing a province-wide contribution to housing initiatives of $4 billion since 2003, including $1.2 billion for Toronto — which averages out to $92 million per year. Ballard called that a “significant contribution.”

Toronto Community Housing’s current operating budget gap for next year alone is $96 million.

“We know that need is great,” Ballard said.

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