Inside Toronto: Downtown rally calls for affordable housing

July 13th, 2010 by Justin Skinner - Inside Toronto

Concerned over the lack of a national housing strategy, a group of local activists gathered in Toronto's financial core on Thursday, July 8.

A small group of housing advocates from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada) took their pleas to the streets, urging the Harper government to support Bill C-304, tabled by Vancouver East MP Libby Davies.

The bill calls for more funding for safe, affordable housing to help combat homelessness across the country.

Edward Lantz, chair of ACORN's St. James Town chapter, said they opted to lobby at the corner of King and Bay streets because it would be the best place to reach Conservative supporters.

"We don't have a Conservative MP in Toronto, but the majority of the support for the Conservative government comes from down here," he said.

Lantz noted both the Liberals and New Democrats have supported the idea of a national housing strategy. The Conservatives' refusal to support such a strategy, however, has left Canada as the only G8 country without one.

He said the recent G20 Summit showed where the Harper government's priorities lie.

"The current Harper government spent $1.5 billion on the G20," he said. "That could provide 16,000 new (affordable housing) units in the City of Toronto."

With waiting lists for affordable housing at an all-time high - the wait is currently at least 10 years - too many Canadians are forced to spend 30 per cent or more of their monthly income on rent, he said, adding that does not even take into account the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are homeless, or those living in overcrowded spaces or substandard housing.

"We want landlords to be held accountable and we need rent controls," Lantz said. "The average rent in Toronto for a one-bedroom apartment is $800 to $900, and when you get most people making $13 or $14 and hour, prices have escalated too much."

Fellow ACORN member Carmen Respondek said the need for housing was critical. She echoed Lantz's sentiments that the money spent on G20 security should have gone toward housing instead.

"I was shocked when I heard about the fake lake," she said. "Who needs a fake lake when we don't have affordable housing?"