Toronto is considering providing a year of free rent for city’s homeless population

The Toronto City Council is looking at the possibility of giving homeless people a year of free rent.

City Council adopted a motion introduced by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam on November 9 requesting that City personnel compile a report on the concept’s viability. The staff will now calculate how much it would cost to provide a one-year rent subsidy to everyone currently residing in a shelter, hotel shelter, or 24-hour respite centre.

During the epidemic, shelter expenditures have almost doubled, according to Wong-Tam, with the cost of sheltering one individual in a shelter for a year costing the city $40,000.

“Given the existing housing crisis which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, our city’s unhoused population has had to depend on shelters as a solution,” Wong-Tam said in an interview. “An annual rental subsidy would cost even less and it would allow the City to divert money from the exorbitant and unsustainable costs of operating shelters and shelter hotels.”

In Toronto, the typical one-bedroom rental costs $1,800 per month, or $21,600 per year.

The costs of providing additional supports to residents who are unable to live independently will also be broken down in the upcoming Council report.

Wong-Tam has also requested that the information gathered be shared to the provincial and federal governments, so that they can consider funding the programme.

“The City of Toronto is not responsible for housing, we are responsible for shelter services,” Wong-Tam said. “Shelters are not meant to be permanent housing. ​Housing is a provincial and federal responsibility, however, our provincial and federal counterparts have been lagging in providing financial and other support to our city, resulting in the crisis we see before us. Toronto has been picking up the slack on behalf of our other levels of government; however, this is unsustainable.”

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