By Serena Lisus-Reiter
Finding adequate and affordable housing in Toronto has become increasingly difficult. For women and children looking to leave situations of domestic violence, finding safe and affordable housing can be one of the biggest barriers standing in their way of independence and safety. As a member of the External Advisory Committee for Toronto’s new Housing Plan, HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan, WomanACT recognizes the housing crisis in Toronto as posing unique challenges to women, especially those made vulnerable by their survivor, newcomer, racialized, and/or LGBTQ2S identities.
Over the last couple of months, WomanACT looked to our community to find answers to the question of precarious housing in Toronto. We talked with women with lived experience of housing instability and/or violence and the service providers who engage with them. Consulting with communities directed impacted by violence, poverty and/or housing insecurity is key to ensuring Toronto’s new ten year housing plan adopts a gender and trauma informed approach. Ultimately, we want to find out what can be done to help marginalized women and women experiencing violence access safe, adequate, and affordable housing that is imperative to their ongoing safety and independence.
In our consultations, we asked what our community saw as challenges in finding housing in Toronto, what they would like to see prioritized, and any innovative ideas for the City to address these issues. Many expressed the lack of affordable private market units available, the long waitlist (of over 100 000 people) for social housing, and discrimination by landlords as some of their major concerns. They wanted to see the city prioritize private market rent control, the creation of more affordable housing units, the addition of more shelter beds, and more regulation to ensure fair treatment by landlords. Finally, our community shared its ideas for innovation with us as well, including talk about converting old parking lots into housing units, developing and funding self-contained family units for families fleeing violence instead of shelters, and even finding ways to support women to stay in their own homes after situations of domestic violence.
In our work with the City of Toronto’s 2020 – 2030 Housing Plan, we hope to address these unique barriers and close some of the gaps that stand between women and safe housing. WomanACT remains committed to the safety and independence of women experiencing violence, and through consulting our community, we continue to honour this commitment.