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90% of Toronto families facing homelessness

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A new study shows nine out of 10 families occupying aging high-rises in Toronto’s low-income neighborhoods are living in inadequate housing and risk homelessness.

The University of Toronto study, released on Friday, showed half of those families live in overcrowded places and one third spend more than half their income on rent.

The results of the study were published on the same day that people staged nationwide rallies in Canada supporting the National Housing Day.

The findings are indicative of a crisis that is “very widespread and very serious,” researcher Emily Paradis said.

“I went into this knowing that the problem was huge,” said Paradis, who has studied homelessness affairs in the last 25 years. “I was struck, though, by the fact that nine out of 10 families are in housing that fails to meet basic standards of adequacy … That was, to me, just indicative of such a crisis in housing for low-income families.”

More than 1,500 families with children living in rental apartment high-rises were questioned and the data were collected from surveys. Their houses were built between 1950 and 1979 in low-income areas. Nearly half of the tenants in Toronto live in such buildings.

The researcher recognized “indicators” of homelessness risk as housing that is unaffordable, overcrowded, unsafe, insecure or in poor condition. Unaffordable housing is considered as that which costs over half of a family’s income.

According to the survey, half of the families lived in overcrowded houses and one third spent more than half of their monthly earnings on rent and other housing expenses. Almost one quarter lived in buildings that were unsafe or insecure. Nearly half of them reported living in ramshackle buildings, and 27 per cent had apartments that were in bad shape. One fifth were at risk of looming eviction.

Canadian families increasingly use shelters, but a large number of homeless families don’t go to shelters, said Paradis, adding, they live together with another family, relatives or friends, a situation referred to as “hidden homelessness.”

On Friday rallies, supporters of better housing conditions urged the federal government to protect housing subsidies, increase funding for inexpensive housing and develop a national housing strategy.


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