Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 1 - Evidence - Meeting of November 21, 2007
OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met
this day at 4:10 p.m. to examine the multiple factors and conditions that
contribute to the health of Canada's population, known collectively as the
social determinants of health, and to examine and report on current social
issues pertaining to Canada's largest cities.
Senator Art Eggleton (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology.
At the beginning, we need to deal with some routine motions. This has to do
with the order of reference that was adopted by the Senate on November 20
regarding the impact of the multiple factors and conditions that contribute to
the health of Canada's population, known collectively as the social determinants
of health. The motion states that this order of reference be referred to the
Subcommittee on Population Health. Is that agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Second, there is a motion, made by Senator Munson, that the
order of reference adopted by the Senate on November 20 regarding current social
issues pertaining to Canada's largest cities be referred to the Subcommittee on
Cities. Is that agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Finally, that the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology meet to study the subjects of poverty, housing
and homelessness under the order of reference on population health adopted by
the Senate on November 20, and under the order of reference on cities adopted by
the Senate on November 20, and refer the evidence to the Subcommittee on
Population Health and Subcommittee on Cities.
As you know, we decided that the poverty, housing and homelessness component
of the cities agenda should be done by the main committee because it is also
relevant to the Subcommittee on Population Health. This takes it up to the main
committee, and all of the information we get from these people today and from
any other hearings on poverty, housing and homelessness feeds into the two
subcommittees as part of their studies.
There is nothing new there. This is a carry-over from the last session. This
motion is moved by Senator Cochrane. Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you, senators; the routine matters have been dealt
Today, we will be examining poverty, homelessness and housing.
We began our study in the last session of this 39th Parliament and are
continuing the work in this second session. I want to point out that this work
is being undertaken by the entire committee — we just passed a motion to that
effect — as it relates to the two studies of our subcommittees, one on
population health and the other on cities.
We are also building upon some previous work — and I think this is noteworthy
— that has been done in the Senate on matters of poverty. The 1971 report headed
by Senator Croll comes to mind. It was a particularly significant report.
There is also the work of another senator, Senator Cohen, who wrote a book in
1997 entitled Sounding the Alarm: Poverty in Canada.
We are also building on the work that is being currently done by the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, chaired by our colleague Senator
Fairbairn. That committee is dealing with the issue of rural poverty, in
particular, and that study was initiated in the Senate by Senator Segal.
There is a lot of good work that has been completed and we are building upon
this foundation in dealing with these critical issues facing the people of
Canada. Today, we will focus on housing issues.
We have four panellists that have come to help us in that regard. I will
introduce them in the order they will speak. First is John Anderson, Director,
Government Affairs and Public Policy, Canadian Co-operative Association. This
association supports its members in the co-op sector through the provision of
services in three core areas — namely, development, government affairs and
public policy, and common table.
Nicholas Gazzard, Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of
Canada is next. The federation was established in 1968 and is the organized
voice of the Canadian co-op housing movement.
Next is Sharon Chisholm, Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal
Association, which was also established in 1968 — quite a year. The association
is a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and strengthening
the social housing sector.
Last, but by no means least — certainly in my opinion — is Mr. Derek
Ballantyne, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Community Housing Corporation. His
corporation is the largest landlord in Canada. The corporation is owned by the
City of Toronto and owns and manages some 60,000 rental units. I had the
pleasure of being the chair for a number of years of one of the organizations
that was consumed by Toronto Community Housing, and that was the City of Toronto
non-profit housing corporation, or Cityhome.
Welcome to all of you and thank you for being here. We will start with John
Anderson from the Canadian Co- operative Association.
John Anderson, Director, Government Affairs, Public Policy, Canadian
Co-operative Association: I welcome this opportunity to talk to you along
with my colleague, Mr. Gazzard, the Executive Director of the Co-operative
Housing Federation of Canada. CHF Canada is one of our 34 members, which also
include co-operatives and co-operative federations encompassing all the major
Credit Union Centrals, the Co-operators Group Limited, retail co-operatives such
as Federated Co-operatives Limited, Co-op Atlantic, GROWMARK and Mountain
Equipment Co-op, agricultural co-operatives such as Gay Lea and the United
Farmers of Alberta, as well as health and worker co- operative federations.
In 2009, CCA will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a national association
for Canadian co-ops. In partnership with the Conseil Canadien de la Coopération,
we form a network of over 9,000 co-operatives and more than 13 million
Co-operatives were formed to fight poverty. The first co-op was started in
1844 by textile workers in Rochdale, an urban centre in England, to deal with
the grinding poverty they endured. The principles of the retail co-operative
they formed are the basis for the worldwide movement of today, a movement of
some 1 billion co-operative members.
In Canada, the history of co-operatives has also been linked to the battle
against poverty. Whether it is the credit union started by Alphonse Desjardins,
the retail co-ops of Western or Atlantic Canada or the national housing co-
operative movement, we believe the co-operative model in Canada has shown that
it can be an essential tool in this fight.
I wish to start with a quotation from a Senate committee:
The committee found that the solution, like the problem, must be
multidimensional. It must have a number of different components which can be
integrated into a coherent plan for the elimination of poverty in Canada.
Sound familiar? This is not a future conclusion from this committee, but
rather from the Special Senate Committee on Poverty's concluding report in 1971,
which Senator Eggleton talked about and which I reread in preparation for this
Since that time, poverty rates in Canada, no matter how you measure them,
remain very high and much higher than in most comparable European nations. We
continue to have no coherent plan. Not only are the federal, provincial,
municipal and Aboriginal governments not coordinated, there is no coordination
within the federal government on this issue and there is no coordination with
important stakeholders such as business, labour and community organizations.
At CCA's annual meeting last June, delegates endorsed a resolution calling on
the federal government to establish a national anti-poverty strategy in
conjunction with provincial and territorial governments. We are proud of the
fact this resolution was adopted unanimously. We also want to underline that
this is the first example of an important business and economic sector
organization committing itself to endorsing this goal.
We wish to challenge other major Canadian business organizations and sectors
to adopt similar pledges. Poverty as we know affects us all. Its effects are not
limited to the poor but all of us feel its effects in terms of a weakened social
In our anti-poverty resolution, we call on the federal government to use the
co-operative model as an important tool to fight poverty. Through our
well-respected international program, we have learned how co-ops can work as
antipoverty tools. Many of the lessons we have learned in our work in over 40
developing countries can be applied here.
Since 2003, the Canadian co-op sector has partnered with the federal
government on the very successful Co- operative Development Initiative. Through
this initiative, which ends in 2008 and which we are trying to renew for another
five years, we have helped to develop a number of new urban co-operatives.
Experience shows us that co-operatives can be used to meet major public
policy objectives. In an urban environment, co-operatives, among other civil
society organizations, can make a contribution to lifting people out of poverty.
I would like to share with you one of the many urban examples where
co-operatives are making a difference. That would be Neechi Foods Co-operative,
which is an Aboriginal worker co-op that operates a retail store in inner city
Winnipeg, a neighbourhood with a large Aboriginal population and high rates of
poverty and homelessness.
First Nations, Metis and Inuit populations have poverty rates two to three
times the already high Canadian rate. Neechi offers a range of grocery store
products and has developed other related programs such as fruit baskets for
Poverty often leads to poor nutrition and Neechi tries to address that
problem. In addition, it addresses poverty through meaningful employment to
people of Aboriginal ancestry, providing an opportunity for them to develop
business skills and self-confidence.
Turning now to the question of housing and homelessness, much has been said
about counting the number of households in core need. No matter the source of
such an exercise, there are definitely over 1.5 million households in core need
across the country.
All frontline organizations that work directly with the homeless have now
agreed on one major conclusion — that is, the importance of promoting housing
first. This is a policy position that says that you cannot begin to fully
address the issues of mental health and addictions that plague many of the
homeless without having available, secure and affordable housing.
Affordable housing is not an area of public policy where we are unsure about
how to address the problem. The current social housing era began in 1973 when
the National Housing Act was amended to facilitate the development of non-profit
housing co-ops and other types of non-profit housing. The result was several
hundreds of thousands of permanently affordable housing units that are still
with us today.
In some ways, it is not the number of units produced that is so significant
but the creation of a sustainable model of affordable housing that includes
housing the poor. The solution is at hand and waits only for the resources to
CCA endorses the positions presented here today by the Co-operative Housing
Federation of Canada and its social housing colleagues. Among others, it carries
the torch for affordable housing and can deliver the solutions.
In conclusion, I would like to summarize some of the main reasons we think
the co-op model has important advantages as a tool for fighting poverty.
First, we think that co-ops build community assets by keeping profits in the
community and helping to build a framework for community economic development;
second, co-ops stay in business longer compared with other businesses in the
private sector, according to a recent study by the Quebec government; third,
co-operatives are schools of business and community participation; and, fourth,
co-operatives are locally owned and controlled.
I would like to end on that note, and I would be happy to explain in more
detail any of the points that I have raised in the question period following the
Nicholas Gazzard, Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of
Canada: Let me thank you for the opportunity to be here to talk about
co-operative housing and housing generally. John Anderson has set some of the
context of the affordable housing situation in Canada.
I should like to begin by telling you a little bit about housing co-ops
specifically and then come back to one of the things that Mr. Anderson
mentioned, namely, core housing need.
Housing co-operatives are homes first and foremost, owned and operated on a
not-for-profit basis by a co-operative corporation that is governed by the
members, who are also the residents. Developed for the most part under federal
programs, co-ops provide affordable rental housing to moderate-income people and
income-tested assistance to lower- income households. Federal funding for new
co-operative housing developments ended in 1992, leaving us a legacy of 1,600
federally sponsored co-operative housing projects across the country, containing
nearly 65,000 homes. At one time, close to 30,000 of those homes housed
lower-income families, but the withdrawal of federal assistance to the co- ops
over time has reduced the capacity to house lower-income Canadians affordably
Nonetheless, co-op housing is certainly a success story in Canada. It has
created safe, sustainable communities that help individuals and families break
the cycle of poverty and inadequate shelter. It has also proven to be the most
cost- effective form of assisted housing, as successive CMHC evaluations have
concluded. For more than 30 years, co-ops have played a key role in housing
Canadians affordably in strong communities, and they can play an important part
in the long-term solution to Canada's housing crisis.
I would like to talk about that housing crisis. A few weeks ago, in the
Speech from the Throne, the Governor General said that Canadians worry about
affordable housing and the number of homeless people on our streets. Today, we
are releasing a report on housing need in Canada, and it shows that Canadians
are right to be worried about the housing situation we face.
Almost 1.5 million households are in what CMHC describes as "core housing
need.'' CMHC defines "core housing need'' as a household that has to spend more
than 30 per cent of its before-tax income to get housing that is adequate and in
suitable condition. Those 1.5 million households translated into more than 3
million Canadians who are in core housing need, and that number of households is
projected to grow to more than 2 million within 20 years, unless we start to
Beyond those housing statistics are the real people who pay the price for
Canada's lack of affordable housing. The results in our report are not a
surprise, but that does not make them any the less shameful. The Canadians who
get hurt the most are those who are most vulnerable, the young, the old,
lone-parent families, Aboriginal households, new immigrants and renters. who
account for more than two thirds of those in core housing need.
Recent immigrants have a rate of housing need that is triple that of
non-immigrants. Lone-parent families have a rate that is double that of other
Canadian households. The incidence of core housing need for Aboriginal
households — these figures will not surprise you, but they are bad — is 78 per
cent higher than for non-Aboriginal households. Perhaps the most shameful
statistic of all is that 15 per cent of Canadian children under 10 years old are
living in core housing need. That means more than one in six Canadian children
do not have adequate shelter. We wonder why we have a child poverty problem in
As our report shows, there is one overwhelming reason these households have
difficulty finding acceptable housing. Eighty-nine per cent of them cannot
afford acceptable housing, so although there are three things that make up core
housing need — affordability, suitability and size — affordability is by far the
major problem affecting 1.3 million households.
Geographically, the three territories, British Columbia, Ontario and Nova
Scotia have the highest percentages of core need. In Nunavut, it is nearly 40
per cent, compared to the figure for all of Canada of 13.7 per cent. Even in the
province with the lowest rate, which is Alberta, one out of every 10 households
is in core need. That is in a province that has no debt, in a country that has
no deficit. It seems astonishing that in a nation as blessed as Canada, one in
10 households in core housing need is the best we are able to do.
Affordable housing is not just good for families and communities; it is also
vital to healthy economic growth. As Don Drummond, Senior Vice-President and
Chief Economist for the TD Financial Group concluded in a report on affordable
housing, an inadequate supply of affordable housing is a roadblock to business
investment and growth.
Affordable housing also reduces costs for policing, emergency health care,
mental health, social support and justice systems.
All levels of government have a role to play in addressing core housing need,
but let us make no mistake: It is a national problem that requires a coordinated
national solution, and there has to be a solution.
On the night of January 23, 2006, the night of the federal election, the
Prime Minister talked about aspirations we can all share as Canadians. He made
reference to immigrants discovering new opportunities in a new land and seniors
seeking security, yet one in three new immigrants does not have access to
housing they can afford, and one in five seniors over the age 75 does not
This Prime Minister did not create the housing crisis we have in Canada
today, but through his leadership he can help solve it.
Sharon Chisholm, Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal
Association: Thank you, honourable senators. It is a pleasure to be here. In
my many years of working in Ottawa, this is the first time I have met with the
Senate to talk about housing. We have met before to talk about poverty, and
child poverty, in particular; it is great to meet you to talk more about
The point I want to impress upon you the most strongly is that the federal
government is now at a juncture where it may move away from interventions in
housing. The year 1968 was mentioned. In and around that time, the federal
government became quite involved in housing, and over the past 40 to 50 years
ended up building about 600,000 units of housing in communities all across
Canada, including the co-ops you have heard about. We want to preserve those
units, but also we know there is a great need to increase those units.
While the provinces have been very active at using federal dollars and
partnering in federal programs and initiatives to build housing, we know that
over that long period of time the provinces have not been active unless they
were given an incentive by federal programs, for example, by 50-cent dollars or,
in the recent case of a trust fund, a direct transfer of funds. The provinces
have put significant dollars into housing, but they have done it only with the
leadership and the leverage that has been provided by the federal government.
As we move into a period where the federal government is looking at
limitations on spending powers and at curtailing its role in some social policy
areas, I would advise that housing provides a powerful tool and lever to
continue to be involved in the communities, to assist in making communities
healthy and competitive and to serve immigrants in a way that Mr. Gazzard has
already pointed out.
There are areas of federal interest, apart from simply shelter and social
interests, such as neighbourhood security, competitiveness of cities, the
settlement of newcomers and economic issues more broadly that can be advanced
through housing investments and housing interventions. By giving up that kind of
tool, you are giving up a lot.
It is an important moment for honourable senators to be involved in housing,
and I hope you will ensure that the federal government continues to play an
important role in how housing unfolds across the country, even when programs are
administered and delivered locally. As I travel to communities across the
country, I hear time and again that we must keep the federal government
involved, as it has a crucial role to play.
We gathered with our provincial and territorial partners last year to discuss
the fact that the federal government and other governments are at the end of a
number of programs. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, the Rental Assistance
Program, RRAP, the Affordable Housing Initiative and the housing trust funds
will all sunset in 2010, and for some the funding will be gone before then. Now
is the time to look at what that future federal role will be. That is why our
colleagues and associations from across the country came up with a campaign and
identified some of the key issues. Our campaign calls for the federal
government, at a minimum, to maintain its current investment.
Through CMHC, the federal government is currently spending $2 billion a year
on social and affordable housing. That money helps to pay subsidies on mortgages
and houses that we bought and developed over the years. By 2035, which is some
time in the future, I know, but will be fast upon us, all those mortgages will
have been paid off. They are beginning to be paid off already. Some no longer
have mortgages and no longer require federal assistance.
In trying to keep those housing units in place, we must ensure that the
existing housing can still be targeted to low- income households. Some groups
will be able to do that; other housing projects will not have the wherewithal
for that. Some projects have been well maintained; others need financial
assistance for repairs.
By our calculations, about 20 per cent of the ongoing federal budget will be
required to maintain the existing housing and keep it targeted to those who need
it. However, if the federal government were to say that it will hold the line on
the existing budget, if not increase it, 80 per cent of that budget could be
used to create new housing. By the time mortgages are paid off, that could add
21,000 units of housing a year. If the provinces keep their pedal to the metal
and partner, that could double.
It will be a while before we get to 2035, but as mortgages expire, funds will
become available to reinvest in communities. Until that happens, I would advise
the federal government to put programs in place that will keep us expanding the
supply of affordable housing. At the least, without spending new money, just
committing that the federal government will stay involved and that the $2
billion will be safeguarded for affordable housing would be a huge step for us.
It would keep the provinces in place as partners and would give the communities
the message that the federal government is still involved, which means that all
governments will be involved. It would allow the people on the waiting lists to
feel hopeful again.
I know some people are being told that in 10 years they might get a housing
unit — it may be 12 years in Ottawa right now. For people with two children aged
four and six and in insecure housing, going onto that list is not doing very
much good. In many cases, they are paying more than half of their income for
housing, and they are often living in areas that are far from work
The federal government should continue to have a role because it is concerned
about better health and reduced health costs. I have been participating on the
Conference Board of Canada's Round Table on the Socio-Economic Determinants of
Health with a variety of people from the private sector and different provincial
governments. We have all come to the conclusion that housing is the base
determinant of health. Without secure housing, there is not much sense in
talking about a better diet; there is not much sense in talking about access to
recreation programs. An individual needs an address first.
Despite the WHO definition, despite the definition of determinants of health
that has been approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Conference
Board of Canada's round table is strongly recommending that housing be a
separate determinant of health. That is how important it is to our well-being.
As well, neighbourhood safety is a huge issue and can be improved by renewing
neighbourhoods via the vehicle of housing. We know as well that if kids have
secure homes they are more likely to finish high school — increasing their
employability — and we all know how important that is to Canada's well-being.
Once a person has a secure home, that individual can seek a job and put a
schedule in place to get out to work regularly. It can have environmental
benefits when planned properly. In other words, public purse concerns are met
through different kinds of housing interventions. Even increasing the supply of
housing will moderate housing price inflation. It has been seen as an effective
tool to keep house prices from continuing to escalate.
Investment in affordable housing has no negative impacts on productivity and
it does improve the competitiveness of places. We know how important that is. It
also provides for the faster settlement of newcomers.
As you are contemplating the kind of role the government will have in the
future and the kind of intergovernmental cooperation required for that, I want
to point out that Canada has had successful bilateral agreements with provinces
that have produced excellent housing communities across the country and under
which the provinces have been able to meet their interests, perhaps of providing
housing for seniors, settling immigrants, or helping to renew a community, while
at the same time the federal government meets its interests. It is an excellent
area for partnership.
The Affordable Housing Initiative, which is co-sponsored by the federal and
provincial governments, has been an excellent partnership and has produced a
good deal of housing. Without the federal government's intervention in that, the
provinces would not have come back with matching dollars. The provinces are
matching every dollar the federal government spends. It has been an important
way to bring money to the table for housing.
I will leave you with the strong message that we believe that housing is a
role and responsibility of the federal government in partnership with provincial
and municipal governments. CHRA will continue to support that message and hopes
to be very involved in the next election ensuring that all Canadians understand
the importance of government involvement in the provision of affordable housing.
Our members include about 80 housing providers across the country and about
50 groups that are housing promoters. They do not provide or deliver housing,
but they know how important it is to the work they do, so they have joined our
efforts. Eleven of the provinces and territories are members of our
organization. Ontario is not a member, nor is Alberta this year, although I am
sure they will be back next year, and we will continue to fight for Ontario.
Twenty-five cities are members of our organization. Every major city in Canada
is involved in our work, as well as about 40 universities and academics, and a
number of other groups. We represent a wide variety of interests.
Thank you very much for your time.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, and thank you for the printed
materials you provided.
We will now hear from a provider/manager of housing, Derek Ballantyne, CEO of
the Toronto Community Housing.
Derek Ballantyne, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Community Housing:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. As you point out, I am, in a
sense, a practitioner among theorists. Our perspective is from having to
implement the product of policy. In a sense, our corporation is unique. We were
established about five years ago. We own all the publicly owned housing in the
City of Toronto, that is, that which was formerly developed by the municipality
through Cityhome, and also that which was provincially owned housing, some of
the oldest social housing in Canada. In fact, it dates to the 1940s when the
City of Toronto, on its own, decided to get into the business of poverty relief,
change of neighbourhood and improvement of housing conditions for low-income
citizens. It did that by a 1 per cent levy on its tax base in 1947 to start what
has now become known as the Regent Park development. Fifty years later, we are
rebuilding that development and I will perhaps through my comments explain why
we might find ourselves there again.
We have the benefit of having a great number of programs, housing that was
built under a variety of programs — federal, federal-provincial, provincial, and
some that we have done entirely on our own. Therefore, we have been able to
experience the range of support for the delivery of affordable housing, and with
that inherited the range of complexity with what it is like to actually deliver
We house 164,000 people. I wish to qualify that by saying that those are the
ones we know of. We probably house, by everyone's estimate, close to 200,000
people. That is nearly 40 per cent of the low-income residents of the city of
Toronto. They are the lowest-income residents of the city of Toronto. With that,
not only do we deal with the issues and complexity of having to simply provide
housing, but we are dealing with poverty — and we are dealing with very complex
poverty. I would like to speak a little bit about that as well.
First is the challenge of the housing we have. About 65 per cent of the units
of the 60,000 units we have were built prior to 1975. They are well beyond the
stage in which you need to renew that housing stock and refurbish it and
regenerate for low-income households. One of the great difficulties, as others
have pointed out, is that the investments that we made in housing as a nation,
as federal, provincial and municipal governments, have to be renewed, and
currently there is no way of assembling the capital to do that.
Our corporation has levered about $500 million out of its own assets in order
to start that process. We are about 50 per cent of the way to being able to
regenerate the housing we have. Frankly, in my opinion and in the opinion of
others, not all of it should be regenerated. A good portion of it should simply
be replaced, but there is no program and no commitment to do that.
As Ms. Chisholm has pointed out, there are federal commitments in housing at
the present time that, if maintained, would actually provide a source of funding
that could start the renewal and regeneration process of the existing housing
stock. It is critically important to address core need at the present and for in
the future; but it is equally critical to maintain the stock that we have built
so that we can continue to supply that as affordable housing.
The state of our housing is really quite awful. While it is often blamed on
the state of management, I can assure you that when you speak to the tenants who
live in these conditions they do not blame management. They blame the fact that
these are old and decrepit structures that need to be renewed. Like anyone's
house, after 35 or 40 years the roof needs replacing, as does the plumbing,
floors, kitchen, bathrooms and so on, and we simply have not been funded in any
way to be able to do that, nor have we been able to garner resources to do that.
Therefore, it is a bit of a cry from the City of Toronto but it is also a
bellwether of what is to come in the sector as a whole nationally. Our housing
is by and large the oldest housing, but it is very similar in terms of built
form and in terms of underlying funding to much of the housing that was built
across Canada, and we will all be facing this problem in the future.
I also want to turn your attention to the issues of poverty and how they
connect to housing. As I mentioned, we house close to 200,000 low-income
residents in the city of Toronto. We do that by and large in wholly low-income
neighbourhoods. I say "neighbourhoods,'' because many of our developments are
quite large and uniquely designed to serve low-income households. If you exclude
our senior residents from our portfolio, about 25,000 people, over 50 per cent
of the remaining residents are under the age of 21. About 85 per cent are
non-white and about 25 per cent are new Canadians. The face of poverty and the
face of social housing in large urban centres have transformed rapidly and
continues to transform. We have to recognize that the mere fact of having been
able to provide social housing is but one element of addressing the issues of
poverty and complex poverty in large urban centres.
Granted, it is not the same in each urban centre in Canada but it is
increasingly a similar profile: a racialized profile, a new immigrant profile
and a profile of young people who by and large are marginalized and completely
excluded from a society that we think, reasonable so, is fair and inclusive. I
spend a fair bit of time with the young people in these communities and my own
conclusion is that they have become exceedingly alienated. They are living in
communities with very little hope — hope because they are alienated from the
civic structures that would engage them, hope because they do not feel they can
influence their environment to any great extent, and hope because they do not
feel there is a great deal of concern as to what their plight might be. As we as
a corporation start to engage young people — and we do that in a number of ways,
through leadership development programs, civic engagement programs and,
increasingly, employment programs, and you may well wonder why a housing
organization is doing that. It is born out of a well-developed sense of
self-preservation. If we do not actually find constructive lives for these young
people, we as a city will suffer and we as a corporation will suffer. Hence, as
we as a corporation start to engage young people, what we discover is that there
is a great thirst for actual participation but a complete absence of
coordination of program and coordination of intent on the ground between
different levels of government and different streams of purpose.
Employment, for example, for young people is an extremely complex
undertaking. We have 22 to 26-years-olds who have never worked a day in their
lives. We cannot expect them to move immediately into the labour force — they
need training and support. However, we have great difficulty finding training
and support anywhere in our environment, because it is not something that is
funded through housing, nor is it funded through any of the traditional
employment programs that we have access to, whether they be sponsored at the
outset by the federal government or, increasingly, provincial and municipal
sources. We have a huge challenge ahead of us.
I want to leave you with a bit of hope though, because we are making some
progress and we feel we are doing some of the right things in some of the rights
places. We have learned a great deal from the history of the City of Toronto
having built mixed income, mixed tenure communities, and we have gradually
started the rebuilding process in places like Regent Park, a 2,100 low-income
household community that will be rebuilt as a 5,200 unit, fully green, very
advanced environmentally and, more important, mixed-income, mixed-tenure
As we do that, we have created employment opportunity for up to 500 people,
not only in the construction but in the businesses that are being located there,
who all have to sign an intent to hire locally and through all of the
consultants and contractors who work with us in developing this kind of future.
If there is any hope for all of us, and particularly us in the city of
Toronto, it is that we find greater and better partners and more financially
endowed partners than we might be to be able to continue this transforming
process and to address not just housing need but also the related issues of
The Chairman: Enormous challenges. Two hundred thousand people is a
greater population than most of the cities of the country — 200,000 renters in
that one corporation.
I shall ask the first question of Mr. Ballantyne. Your presentation largely
was about the challenges you face in managing the portfolio. One thing I noticed
in common with what the others are saying is that there is a concern about a
renewal process for the older stock; as well, need to put money into dealing
with the infrastructure, shall I say, is something we have heard from the FCM
who were here this week as well.
I want to ask you about the people who are knocking at the door, too — your
waiting list. Can you tell me how many people are currently on the list and how
long it takes them to get into this kind of housing? We have certainly heard the
statistics about people whose rent payments exceed 30 per cent of their income,
maybe more than 50 per cent, and many of those people will be knocking at your
door to try to get in. Can you tell me about that situation at the moment?
Second, an article in the Toronto Star a week ago said that Toronto
has become condo city. There are thousands of condos going up all the time, the
effect of which is to lower the vacancy rate in Toronto because many of these
units go onto the rental market. Of course, there is the question of how much of
that really helps people looking for affordable housing. I should like your
comment on that.
My third area of questioning regards Regent Park. I actually grew up a couple
of blocks from Regent Park while they were building it. Regent Park is now going
to go through a renewal process, a gradual replacement of what is there. It will
be opened up from the traditional public housing project to mixed housing. You
have some other public housing projects. What are the chances of mixed housing
being moved into those areas as well — because our experience over the years has
told us that the concentration of low-income people in traditional public
housing is not particularly a good thing?
Mr. Ballantyne: I certainly focus my remarks on the infrastructure
issue; I feel my colleagues have certainly addressed the demand side.
To illustrate the demand side more particularly for the City of Toronto,
there are about 70,000 households on the waiting list for social housing. To put
that into perspective, there are about 95,000 social housing units in the City
of Toronto. For each unit there is someone standing in line waiting.
Those 70,000 households translate to 120,000 to 130,000 people. It is a large
number. It has been plaguing us for some time to better understand who those
people are. We recently conducted a sampled survey of the waiting list. Asking
70,000 people would be a large task, but it was a well-structured survey of the
households on that waiting list.
By and large, contrary to any mythology, they are very low income. The ones
waiting the longest are the lowest- income households. That seems evident. If
you have very low income, you have very few choices in the marketplace.
What was most interesting for us is where people are living now. By and
large, those households are living in very small units, doubled and tripled up
in small basement apartments — what we would consider substandard housing. We no
longer think of substandard housing as not meeting an occupancy standard — there
are well-regulated municipal standards — but it is really the concentration of
people in any particular unit. There are households who described to us the fact
that four-person households share two-bedroom apartments in high-rises in
suburban Toronto, and they sleep in shifts.
That is not a good outcome for children. They cannot learn, study, do not do
well in school and are not well prepared for school, to say nothing about the
impact on parents. Or they are doubled up in other circumstances.
Young people are, by and large, couch surfers. They have no fixed address.
That is the face of who is waiting for housing in Toronto.
As to the question of how long they wait, the answer is complex. If you are a
senior citizen and are willing to live anywhere in the city of Toronto and will
accept a bachelor unit — of which there is an ample supply because they were
built at a time when that was deemed to be the best form of housing for senior
citizens — we can house you in six months. If you are a family with three or
more children you may well wait 12 or more years.
It is not a simple thing to say, "I need housing, give it to me anywhere,''
because an individual who is a low-income earner cannot afford to be living in
Scarborough and working in Rexdale — two ends of a city 25 kilometres apart; the
individual has to live somewhere close by his or her employment. Affordable
housing is not evenly distributed in the landscape. There is a historic pattern
to where it was built, what is available and the location.
There is a particular shortage of family housing in the central parts of the
city — which links to your second question. The waiting time is conditioned by
what is accessible and what one has access to.
If you take non-senior households out of our current residents — and you have
the same statistic on the waiting list — 70 per cent of households gain some or
all of their income through employment. The average income per household that is
currently housed is $18,000 a year. They are working, but in very low-wage
employment. They are not people who have a lot of choices in the marketplace.
Toronto has been described as a condo city. About 40,000 units have been
added within the old boundaries of the city of Toronto in the last eight years.
The average size of those units is 1.6 bedrooms. Very little of it has been
family housing and virtually all of it is priced at a point that is unaffordable
to anyone with an income lower than $30,000 a year.
While there is an increase in the rental stock — some say up to 50 per cent,
but it settles down to 20 per cent — of new condos are rental housing, investor
buyers who put them back into the rental service, it is not producing affordable
rental housing. It is unaffordable.
This leads to another growing issue for us in Toronto, as well as other urban
centres. While condominiums are a great boon and revitalize the downtown parts
of a neighbourhood, they strip those neighbourhoods of the family
characteristics they once had. Those neighbourhoods become unaffordable to
One may think, "What does that matter to us?'' The Canadian population health
people will tell you that there are two determinants of health and long-term
health outcomes. One is housing, and the other planning. They are linked
together. The health of an individual who does not live in a walkable
neighbourhood, does not live close to services, who is poor and can no longer do
that in the City of Toronto, is about half of what it should be for any other
household, particularly higher-income households. We are displacing poverty and
creating a huge health issue at the same time.
In answer to your last question about Regent Park, as was described to me
recently, we bullied everyone into doing Regent Park. We still do not have
strong financial partners to do it. Our corporation is out there risk-venturing
on what we think will be a successful gamble. We do not have all the money it
will take to finish this 12-year project. It would be great if we had provincial
and federal contributions.
It does set out a great model for what could happen in other neighbourhoods,
such as Toronto and Montreal, to some degree, and Vancouver and other smaller
cities across the country, which all have large concentrations of social housing
and could benefit by recreating themselves as mixed-income communities.
Why do we choose mixed-income communities? No matter what statistic you look
at — and this is not one of my inventions — outcomes are far better in
mixed-income communities for any young person, whether of a high or low income —
school outcomes are better, school preparedness, and job prospects.
Seventy per cent of people who get work get it because they have social
connections and networks that give them access to where work is available. A
person who is sitting in a 100-per-cent poor neighbourhood does not have those
Senator Keon: It surely is a horrendous problem; there is no question
about it. The chair may have told you that we are doing two major studies: He is
doing the cities and I am doing population health.
The reading I have done on this leaves me somewhat bewildered. I have no
problem at all with the demand side. You are preaching to the converted. I do
not really want a lot of arguments to convince me anymore. I am convinced.
I hear a lot about co-ops. When you read about the types of subsidized,
public housing we have in Canada, there seems to be such a huge mosaic. There is
so much variation that I do not know how you could get yourself, for example, in
front of the federal government and say, "Here is my program. I want to provide
housing and endorse the mixed-income principle.''
It seems to me you have so many complexities. I would somehow like to get my
head around this in the next number of months. I have no idea right now. There
are so many complexities that I do not know how you deal with this tremendous
program, at least if you are looking for national funds, other than to say,
"Give us more money,'' and that does not work anymore.
I do not know which one of you wants to talk about that. Maybe Ms. Chisholm
would start and then Mr. Ballantyne could address it.
Somehow this must be fine-tuned to some degree of understanding, and there
must be a major expenditure. There is no question about that, whether it is in
the native reserves or in downtown Toronto or Vancouver or wherever. This cannot
go on; there is no question about it.
I do not know who would be capable of designing that kind of program. My
background is in health science, and I had to write big proposals every five
years, and a little later on every three years, and sometimes every year for
some of the smaller grants. If I could not present a totally cohesive, organized
proposal, I knew I did not have a ghost of a chance of getting those grants.
It seems to me that, in this area, one reason we have such a terrible problem
in population health and in the cities is that the "asks'' are coming with no
real concrete proposals. I will stop there and let you try to enlighten us as a
Ms. Chisholm: You have described some of the real complexities of the
housing issues that we face. We are going through a change from the time when
the federal government would come up with programs, and sometimes provinces
would partner with them, sometimes not, but it was a "one-size-fits-all, it will
work in all areas of the country'' kind of program. We have moved away from
that. Some of the reality of moving away from that has been actually quite
beneficial in that there is more of an entrepreneurial approach, a bit more
innovative and a bit more based on different regions and different needs of the
The smart money right now in housing is thinking about what you want the
outcomes to be and looking at multiple outcomes. I would take you back to some
of Mr. Ballantyne's comments around location and access to work being important,
and children being able to get to school regularly and having peers being
important. When you start to identify those outcomes and your partners are
investing with you, whether provinces or whomever, and identify what they want
the outcomes to be, then the solutions and programs get a lot easier to
Right now, particularly with the last round of funding in trust funds, every
province is coming up with its own list of programs and experimenting with a
variety of things. Sometimes they hit the mark and probably spend their money,
our money, quite wisely, and in other cases not at all. Those programs are not
necessarily being evaluated. There is no requirement to evaluate them. The
accountability framework is not back to the federal government, it is to their
own constituents. I think we are missing an opportunity to look at what works
well in certain communities.
Housing has changed from being an intervention that was just about really
creating jobs and creating housing, which is what we were concerned about in the
1970s and 1980s, and now it is about creating safer communities, creating
employability, creating vibrancy, creating competitiveness, giving kids a fair
start in life, all of these things. Once you decide what it is that is most
important, the initiatives will follow that.
Senator Keon: Has anyone attempted to write on this?
Ms. Chisholm: Yes, a number of documents are written on projects that
meet outcomes and meet them well. There is a bit of literature on it, but not
very much in Canada. I can look and see what I can find for you.
Mr. Ballantyne: I do not disagree with Ms. Chisholm. It is bewildering
because we are faced today with a legacy of a wandering set of policies or a set
of programs that was always in search of a policy that would unify them in some
way. We have this bewildering array of different interventions at different
times that seem to produce different results.
The answer, from my perspective, is fairly simple. If you think about it in
the context of the social determinants of health, and if you think of housing in
that context, then the interventions in housing will be different community by
community. They will be different because there is a different supply issue in
each community. In some northern communities that have a housing crisis, it is
not so much a supply problem but affordability or quality of housing. In places
like Calgary, there is a huge supply of housing but there is nothing for
low-income workers, the homeless or worker population. In Toronto, it is a
If there is anything we have learned, it is that if we go back and think
about whether we have been successful in dealing with some issues of
homelessness, we have been most successful when there was the ability for
communities to take the funding available and to shape a plan that had to meet
certain outcomes and targets. When everyone agreed those plans would work, they
were funded on that basis, their determination of how they mix their resources
In that sense, we go away from being prescriptive and saying, "This is the
solution'' — because that is ultimately what has always got us in trouble —
towards being prescriptive about what outcomes we are looking for community by
If one place has been more successful than others, it is the United Kingdom,
where the central government there set targets for communities. They said you
must meet these targets, and here are some funding and programmatic assistants
to do that, but you will have to sort out how that happens. The communities that
had the lowest performance in terms of socio-economic performance had to move
the bar up, and they have been successful. It has led to some interesting
joined-up thinking about how you intervene holistically in those places.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Anderson, you talked about the Co-operative
Development Initiative, which you want to see continue. You said it developed a
number of new urban co-operatives. Did that do anything for rural areas, or was
that just for urban?
Mr. Anderson: The Co-operative Development Initiative, which is a
five-year program partnership between the co- operative sector, both the CCA and
the francophone co-operative organization, CCC, in delivering this program, is a
program designed both for urban and rural areas. It is a program in terms of
giving help to groups who want to establish new co-operatives.
In my handout, and if you do not have it yet, you will get it, is a bit of
our proposal for that Co-operative Development Initiative. For example, on the
front page is a picture of a woman in a new consumer co-operative, the Lakeview
Consumer Co-operative, in a Manitoba Metis community that was helped with CDI
funding to set up that co-operative. It is the first retail outlet in that
community. Hence, the people do not have to travel long distances to purchase
food, can therefore eat better, and it helps raise them out of poverty. It is
one of the parts. That is a program designed for both of those communities, and
one we hope will get renewed and expanded. I will not get into that today, but
we have an outline of what we would like to see in that.
We think the co-operative model can be important, because the role of
government should also be to give people a hand up, with very little government
intervention in setting up co-operatives that can create permanent new housing,
permanent new services and permanent new jobs that are controlled by
communities. An important part of the solution is to give people who are in
poverty control of their own destinies. We think co-operatives is one way of
doing that. It is not the only way, but certainly it is one of the ways, and for
that reason it should be particularly encouraged as a model.
Just to finish on the last point and what Mr. Ballantyne was saying about the
British model, what is important about that is they had a national anti-poverty
strategy and then they had the community anti-poverty strategy. First, they
looked at how to build a national anti-poverty strategy. One of the problems we
have in Canada is that we are doing a lot of things, and different levels of
governments are doing a lot of things, but there is no coordination. We have to
build more housing, but we also have to look at questions of jobs and health and
other issues. It is interesting that Mr. Ballantyne is looking at jobs as well
as looking at housing, because the two are interrelated. The question is how to
do that. It is important to build that kind of national anti-poverty strategy.
Senator Callbeck: In a brief from the Co-operative Housing Federation,
they talk about providing affordable rental housing to moderate-income people
and income-tested assistance to lower-income households. Where does that
income-tested assistance come from?
Mr. Gazzard: It typically comes in the form of a flow of assistance to
the co-operatives, either from the federal government through federal programs
or through cost-sharing arrangements with the provinces and territories.
Occasionally, it unilaterally comes from the provinces.
Senator Callbeck: I thought I read that the federal funding ended in
Mr. Gazzard: No, the development programs themselves ended, but the
legacy of those programs has continued. Typically, a federal program will have a
commitment to a project for 30 to 35 years. At the end of that time, the
project's mortgage will be repaid completely and the federal subsidy will end.
The problem there, however, is that although the federal subsidy will end, the
need to continue to house low-income families will not. Although the co-
operatives will not have that original first mortgage to pay, they will face
aging properties in the same way that Mr. Ballantyne described, just a little
later on. They will need to renew, but they will still have the needs of their
low-income families and households to take care of.
That is one of the reasons that, along with CHRA and the others sitting here
with me today, we are saying, at a minimum, start addressing this problem. We
would like to see the federal government continue its commitment to fund
affordable housing after its present responsibilities under the agreements come
to an end.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: This is most interesting. I lived in
Toronto for 19 years, and my two children are there, so I have a great interest
in that city as well as other cities.
I believe we are talking about cities, although I live in a small town and am
very much a rural person. I wanted to ask about Regent Park. There is obviously
renewal going on there. Did you say there are 2,000 persons and it will be going
up to 5,000? Is that the number?
Mr. Ballantyne: Currently, in Regent Park, there are 2,100 units of
housing. What is unusual about Regent Park is that about 1,300 of them are
three-, four- and five-bedroom homes. The number of children is high and the
number of families with young children is high.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Is Regent Park downtown?
Mr. Ballantyne: Yes. We will renew and replace all of those houses and
add more privately owned homes as well.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I know the area. I wanted to make sure I
had the right name in my head because I wanted to ask a question and compare it
to what I believe is a very problematic area, the Jane and Finch area.
In this renewal process, are you thinking of the whole community and its
needs, everything from libraries to health care to child care, seniors programs
and accessibility to the disabled? If so, did you use a particular model?
There was a reference made to Great Britain. I was there last year, and we
visited a city — I am trying to think of the name of it. It was one of the
cities designated for renewal and rebuilding in the model area. I saw one of
those developments, which I thought was great. There is mixed housing in Regent
Mr. Ballantyne: Regent Park is currently 100 per cent assisted,
Senator Trenholme Counsell: That is what I would have criticized
compared to what I saw in Great Britain. However, I understand you will not be
continuing that. I believe in the future there will be mixed housing.
I wanted to ask about the model. I think a development such as Regent Park
should have a health centre and the most up-to-date systems in terms of child
care and early childhood development programs, as well as seniors programs. If
so, what model did you use?
Maybe you could comment on the difference as you see it right now between
Regent Park and the Jane and Finch area, where I do not believe there is this
kind of model.
Mr. Ballantyne: For clarity, I will start with Regent Park. We spent a
fair bit of time looking around mostly western developed countries, because
their histories of social housing development are somewhat similar. We went to
the U.S., U.K., France and briefly Scandinavia. We eventually came to the
conclusion that the example that most closely resembled what we wanted as
outcomes was about 10 blocks away, at the St. Lawrence Market area.
It was largely developed in the 1970s by the City of Toronto from former
industrial lands. It was developed as a mixed-income community. It was developed
with an idea that infrastructure needs and community needs are thought of from
the outset. Recreation, health, education and well-being in the neighbourhood
are thought of from the outset. That was done in a planned way for a
In that particular instance, the City of Toronto showed leadership in
supporting social housing, going in and catalyzing the kind of redevelopment
that happened in that community.
Thirty years later, the outcomes, when tested with residents, were positive
and continue to be positive. When we looked at what we can isolate in terms of
demographic information about that community we found that the health indicators
were still positive.
In Regent Park, we are trying to replicate that, with a couple of other added
pieces. One is the environmental agenda, which we all have to pay attention to.
We are minimizing the carbon footprint for Regent Park. The footprint will be
about 30 per cent of what is currently consumed as energy to keep those
buildings going. Every market and non- market building will be required to hook
up to a central energy system, which will use geothermal sources as part of its
energy generation system.
You then asked about the social infrastructure. The two things we have done
have proven to be the most complicated agendas in all of this. Tearing down and
rebuilding the housing was probably the easiest part.
While municipalities have been given the responsibility for much of the
community infrastructure and the requirements to provide health infrastructure
and so on, they are not funded or able to do so, particularly in the City of
Toronto. There is no access beyond the tax base and the property tax base to
properly address these kinds of issues.
We have had to be creative about how to generate capital to rebuild child
care spaces out of what are currently basement conditions into proper child care
centres. We have been working with the school boards to see if they will rebuild
the school infrastructure so that it can be used as a leverage opportunity to
actually improve conditions on the site. There is a health centre investment,
and we are working with the Ministry of Health in Ontario to reinvest and add on
to that health centre in order to try and deal with gaps in community needs.
Lastly, every community that is thriving has community agencies and
community-based organizations that are also active and healthy. In Regent Park,
like other neighbourhoods in Toronto, it is very hard to pay for and afford
space. The challenge for us is actually accomplishing that.
On that note, we have done some interesting collaborations. We are actually
leveraging and getting approvals for increased density from the City of Toronto
so we can plough that money back in to creating a space for a group called
Parents for Better Beginnings and Focus.
Focus you may not know about, but it is a completely innovative diversion
program, funded in part through health dollars, to keep troubled young people
out of trouble, and they do that by giving them media arts training. This is not
something that has traditionally been done. These young people graduate with
knowledge of how to publish on the web, make films, write articles and run a
radio show. They do not have space, and we have to create that as part of these
One of the biggest challenges of all is how to coordinate and bring together
all the pieces of what creates a healthy neighbourhood. We are in a somewhat
privileged and unique position to be able to push that along as a housing
corporation but, frankly, I do not think it is our job to do so.
When you look at Jane and Finch, it is a far more complicated situation
because there is a different pattern of ownership of lands. It is quite a mixed
community in different ways. We own a substantial amount of real estate but not
a controlling interest in that community. Therefore, we would have a great deal
of trouble in garnering some of the advantage that we have in places like Regent
In Regent Park, so you understand, we have control to the extent that we have
invited some franchise businesses to locate there, and we are negotiating the
sale of the franchise to community groups so they can do job training and
generate an income stream related to those businesses.
Complicated collaboration is required for these types of things, and
collaboration is not something any institution, government or otherwise, is
particularly well trained or adapted to do.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I will ask two questions in areas that I
am interested in. First, are you putting a library in your complex? I do not
mean a traditional library but one with a lot of information, technology and
resources. Second, have you partnered with the University Health Network, I
believe it is called, to develop a model community health centre?
Mr. Ballantyne: On the health side, those discussions are only at the
initial phase. It has taken a while for groups like that to become interested in
what we are doing. We are partnering with the University of Toronto. Back to the
library model, there is a public library there, one of the most active branches
in the downtown area. They are looking at reinvesting in their infrastructure.
We have been supporting a couple of other initiatives. One is a learning centre
co- developed with the University of Toronto for a non-traditional learning
experience. Regent Park is a very large immigrant community. A large number of
people have not been exposed to post-secondary or formal education systems in
the way we know them. The University of Toronto has been innovative in its adult
learning program of working with their faculty on a volunteer basis to teach
courses in non-traditional ways.
We run courses in philosophy, economics, religion and so on, but it was done
through the angle of clothing. One course was done through clothing, so it is a
way of attracting and getting people into a learning environment completely
differently. We are working with local community groups to recreate Regent Park
as a wired community, where people will have free access to a wired environment,
so everyone can gain access to Internet resources and be able to start
collectively organizing themselves in the electronic world to overcome what has
been traditionally been the digital divide in those neighbourhoods.
Senator Munson: Our report will take about two years to put together,
and this may be a simple question that can be answered later on, but I have to
get into the people. You said that some may wait 12 or more years — and where do
they wait? I like to look at it from the client perspective, so I can understand
this study from the ground floor up. How would it work if I were an immigrant
with a family and a minimum wage job? If I go to a co-op, I have to wait to get
in; and when I get in, can I stay as long as I want? How does it work if I find
social housing? How long can I stay? Is there anything in place to help me move
I have to figure this out from the ground floor of the person who is there
and ready to walk into co-op housing. I would appreciate a brief picture of
Mr. Gazzard: I will address the co-op part of your question, Senator
Munson. There are two ways, really. In most cases, housing co-operatives keep
their own waiting lists; however, the co-operatives that have been built in
Ontario under provincial requirements use centralized waiting lists in the
different service manager areas. That does not mean getting in is particularly
easy. Waiting lists for housing co-ops can be just as long as the ones Mr.
Ballantyne and Ms. Chisholm described, many years for low-income families in
many cases. In some cases, it might be easier for a low- income family to get
into a housing co-op that is a long way from where they work, but that just
replaces one set of problems with another.
Once you are in, however, there is really no limit as to how long you can
stay. Some people spend the rest of their lives in housing co-ops, having moved
in at a relatively young age. For some people, it is housing that they will live
in and benefit from for a period of years and then perhaps move on and become
homeowners. There are all kinds of outcomes, but it does provide that base to
pull oneself up by the bootstraps.
We had an interesting story this morning at a press conference. We brought
someone from a housing co-op that was fleeing an abusive relationship, and she
had to move out of her family home into substandard housing for a while,
couch-surfing, as it is described, and she was lucky enough to get into a co-op.
It was a low-income family, but she was able to go back to school. She is
working on her MA, and who knows what will happen. Maybe she will stay in that
co- op and not need low-income subsidy and eventually move out, but it will have
done its job either way.
In terms of how long you can stay in other forms of housing, I will leave
that to Mr. Ballantyne or Ms. Chisholm to answer.
Mr. Ballantyne: There is no time limit to the length of stay in social
housing, although when your income rises you rise to paying a market rent and
cap, so what subsidy you were consuming can be reallocated elsewhere in the
system. By and large, the housing is modest; hence, if you gain significantly
economically, you do move out of that housing. We see those patterns of renewal.
My own estimate is that there are 30 per cent of residents who will never move.
They are there because they are poor, and they will continue to be poor by
virtue of disability, illness or some other factor, or they are seniors on very
modest income, CPP and other benefit income, and they will likely never move
simply by virtue that their income is not likely to change.
Is there anything linked to the housing that assists these households? By and
large, it is our own experiences that housing has existed in a silo separated
from other ways in which it might happen. It is a logical place of contact and
connection, but public policy has not always enabled that logical set of
circumstances to be used to their maximum benefit.
Senator Munson: We referred to this model a minute ago. Is there a
successful provincial model we should look at as an example to follow in doing a
better job in housing? I have to have this on the record, because I was a
reporter sometime ago, and you are always looking for a lead, I guess. Would you
all agree that there is a housing crisis in this country?
Mr. Gazzard: Most definitely. Mr. Ballantyne described the St.
Lawrence Market area as one model. Another would be the False Creek area in
Vancouver, which was a planned community using ex-industrial land into which a
mix of public, non-profit, co-op and full-market housing has gone. It has been
tremendously successful. It has the same kind of outcomes as the St. Lawrence
Canada is a little late to this game because we got started later on social
housing, and we are starting to realize the problems of the legacy stock a
little later. We talked about the U.K. As well, some very interesting things are
happening, for example, in Chicago where some of the hardest core public housing
is being replaced with some innovative replacement stock. We have lots to learn
internationally as well.
Ms. Chisholm: There have been some brilliant projects on the East
Coast. I am sure you know the Halifax neighbourhood around Gottingen and
Gerrish, where they have had so much trouble with drug trafficking and
disinvestment in neighbourhood, and housing being more and more run down and the
neighbourhood being more and more dangerous. There has recently been an
investment of a housing project to take over a whole block where the old Sobeys
used to be. That project has involved the city, province, federal government,
and it has involved a variety of local agencies.
They have to date one project geared to homeless men that is providing
permanent housing for them because they are happy there; they see it as their
neighbourhood. The drug trafficking has slowed and moved down the street.
Housing values along Gerrish Street are going up; people are starting to fix up
their homes, and the neighbourhood is livelier. It is safer to walk in at night.
As part of that project they are building townhomes along Gerrish Street for
families to move back to the community or to move out of overcrowding conditions
in the surrounding community. It is a model for success. Dalhousie University
was very involved in that project, and I could put you in touch with people that
Mr. Ballantyne has also reminded me of some fantastic projects in Quebec.
Some of them have been acquisition rehab where they have fabulous old rental
stock in Montreal that needed to be regenerated and fixed up but kept
affordable, and that has been done by the city, co-ops and community-based
agencies in Montreal and Quebec City, and you see a revival of those
communities. You see a renewal of neighbourhoods when housing investments are
made in areas that are going downhill.
In Montreal evidence has shown that housing investments often lead to other
kinds of investments in neighbourhoods, such as the return of coffee shops,
grocery stores, drug stores, et cetera, which in turn create jobs and a livelier
atmosphere. All of that combined brings families back into the core of a city.
Once children are in the core of a city, it makes a huge difference to the kinds
of services provided and the general feel of the community. There are huge
benefits when housing is provided in a way that brings the city on board to help
to prepare the neighbourhood.
For example, the City of Vancouver has stipulated that all new developments
in the downtown core area have to set aside 20 per cent of their units for
affordable housing. Those units are set aside and then the developer will look
for a partner in the non-profit sector to build or to pay the cost of those
units and then manage them. Some of those units are for families and each
development has to provide some daycare spaces. That has resulted in downtown
Vancouver becoming a family place, and when you visit Vancouver, that is
apparent. It has the kinds of services that service families. Its schools are
doing better and are no longer being emptied of students.
It is a much better outcome than building condos, as Mr. Ballantyne pointed
out, where only one or two people per unit reside and you do not see many
Senator Munson: Natural health benefits follow.
Ms. Chisholm: Yes, and we have evidence to show that.
The Chairman: Senator Munson has correctly said that the cities study
is over two years and population health is about a year and a half. We hope to
have this segment complete and recommendations ready by the middle of 2008.
Poverty, housing and homelessness represents the largest segment of the study.
We will do each segment with information that we gathered and the
recommendations flowing therefrom as we go.
Senator Pépin: Following Senator Keon's question and your comments, it
seems the need for housing has changed tremendously since 1971. The need went
from having a home to having better housing and a better society because
children need to be properly educated, fed and housed — in order to have a more
Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems there is no coherent plan or
coordination between the federal, provincial and sometimes municipal
governments. As well, there is no coordination between the stakeholders,
business and neighbourhood communities. Perhaps I am wrong but is there a group
or an individual to whom people could go to develop a coordinated need and push
it to the federal or provincial government? Is there such a group or individual?
What do you need in order to coordinate action? I have a sense that we need an
individual or an organization to coordinate the need and push that to the
different levels of government.
Ms. Chisholm: Across Canada there are a number of advocacy groups that
try to do that. Senator, you are absolutely right in saying that we need more
cooperation and communication between the various orders of government so that
at least they know what is being done at the various levels.
For example, British Columbia is sponsoring a meeting of provincial, federal
and territorial ministers responsible for housing to take place in February 2008
in Vancouver, although it is not yet clear whether the federal minister will
attend. These are critical meetings to look at what can be done. We have a huge
problem that does not just sit in any one area of the country. The problem
exists all across the country. That coordination has to happen, and there must
be communication, openness, accountability and transparency so that community
groups who come to the fore and take these difficult challenges on will know
what to expect next. Often that communication is not available. We do not even
have the necessary data to show where the greatest need is and how to best
invest to create the best outcomes.
Canada does not have the institutional supports that will support that kind
of horizontal dialogue at the community level and the vertical dialogue across
governments. Instead, we see community groups, as Mr. Ballantyne has described,
trying to bring together the players at the community level. However, it has to
happen everywhere across governments and across government departments. The
issue is not only housing but also immigration, health and children's services.
You are absolutely right. Canada has not done enough to look at getting out
of silos and to determine what kinds of institutions and supports we need to
accomplish that and operate more effectively.
Senator Pépin: You address different groups, such as immigration,
seniors and single-parent families.
Mr. Anderson: As well as having coordinated national, provincial, and
provincial-federal strategies, we have learned that poor people live mainly in
poor neighbourhoods in large cities.
Several years ago, I coordinated the research for a major study in Toronto
called "Poverty by Postal Code,'' put out by the United Way. We identified
particular neighbourhoods in Toronto with very high poverty rates. Similar
studies have been done in other cities. I know the City of Toronto, the United
Way and other organizations in Toronto have begun to move in terms of dealing
with housing problems in those neighbourhoods. The City of Montreal has
identified certain neighbourhoods it wants to concentrate on. This is part of
the solution that we must address. In fact, it should be done on a Canada-wide
basis, whereby we begin to target the neighbourhoods that really need the
investment in housing, jobs, health and all the other services that are
necessary to end poverty.
Mr. Gazzard: I agree with Sharon's comments. It is absolutely
essential for the different levels of government to cooperate. It is well
established that, in Canada, the delivery of adjustment programs lies in
provincial jurisdiction. It is equally vital to have federal government
cooperation in determining the needs of municipalities.
Senator Pépin: It looks like we need a national housing strategy.
Mr. Gazzard: Precisely.
Senator Cochrane: With my apologies, my question on seniors might have
been answered in my absence. In the 1980s, 20 per cent of senators lived in
poverty; however, today, only 5 per cent of seniors live in poverty, according
to my research.
Are fewer seniors struggling to find affordable housing or living in
inadequate housing arrangements today than they experienced 30 years ago?
Mr. Gazzard: I cannot answer the question precisely on data from 30
years ago, but I would say that we still have a problem today because 19 per
cent of Canadians over the age of 75 are in core need, according to the
government's statistics. That is not a pretty picture to paint. That figure is
higher than the national average for housing need, which is 13.7 per cent.
Regardless of where we were 30 years ago, we continue to have a problem.
However, to note from the report that we commissioned, the financial gap to
affordability for seniors is lower. It is the deepest for young families. It is
not as expensive to solve the problem for seniors, but it seems a pretty sad
state of affairs to me that people who give their lives to the service of their
country in one way or another, just by being good citizens, end up in a
situation where they spend their most vulnerable years inadequately housed. It
remains a serious problem that we have to address.
Senator Cochrane: Are you saying it is still 15 per cent?
Mr. Gazzard: I am saying 19 per cent of Canadians over 75 are in need.
The Chair: That is relevant to affordable housing, is that what you
Mr. Anderson: Defined as being in core need; that is right, senator.
Mr. Ballantyne: The demand has been fairly stable for a period of
time, and the projections we have done for the city of Toronto would show that
seniors' incomes are rising. Low-income seniors' incomes have risen more rapidly
than other low-income groups because there has been more directed public policy
for seniors in the last 10 years.
Increasingly complex and related to their housing situation is that health
for seniors is becoming more complex, and aging in place has become a more
complex and immediate problem. We are all living longer now, which means that we
are living in situations that require some modification or some specialization
of the housing. The services that are required to sustain that independent
living are far more complex than they were 10 years ago. We will see more of
that in the future.
Senator Cochrane: What are the requirements for someone who wants to
go into co-operative housing? Are there requirements or certain criteria?
Mr. Gazzard: The only requirement beyond being in housing need, being
on a waiting list for a housing co- operative, is that you recognize that you
are moving into a co-operative. It is a little different, inasmuch as there are
some responsibilities of membership in a co-operative. Those responsibilities
are not unduly onerous. Usually, when a housing co-operative is asking a family
if they want to move in, the responsibilities will be explained to the family.
There is a governance function among the members, because the members elect a
board of directors, which in turn makes the decisions for the direction of the
On the other hand, there are some significant advantages, one, that it will
give a lot of people their first opportunity for civic engagement, to understand
issues around governance, communications and community building. Beyond that,
no, it is not like a club where if you do not fit a certain profile you cannot
get in. I hope that answers your question.
The Chair: I have room for two or three more questions.
I want to ask something that is rather simplistic. I ask it because of the
enormity and the multidimensional challenges of this problem. Housing is related
to so many other things. There is a lot of complexity and I think, as Senator
Keon said, there are a lot of requirements for funds. Of course, there is only
so far that requests for funds will go with any government.
If there were three priority areas, let us say, that you think need to be
addressed in the coming months by the government with respect to housing issues,
what would they be?
Ms. Chisholm: The federal government should clearly assert its
interest. There has not been a statement. There is so much ambiguity. Things
have eroded, I would say, over the last 10 or 15 years. There has to be a clear
assertion of interest. That assertion of interest would do a lot to keep other
players at the table — the necessary, important players. I am not just talking
about governments; I am talking about a variety of players. That is an important
We — the collaborative that I am working with with provincial associations
across the country, and Mr. Gazzard and Mr. Ballantyne both participate —
believe that government should commit to maintaining their current investment,
at a minimum. We would like that commitment. We are asking all governments for
that commitment right now and we would like to get that commitment before the
next election so that whatever government ends up in power will have support to
at least keep the existing budgets in place.
I will come back with a third suggestion.
Mr. Gazzard: I will take Ms. Chisholm and raise her. I agree with that
completely. Our immediate task is that what little money there is on the table
from the federal government not be eroded further. However, it needs to be built
on as well.
Significant reductions will start to occur in the next decade, but a fresh
investment is needed now. We talked about this a moment ago, but what we need
above all is a coherent strategy. We have a national problem, and it is a
complex problem. If there is a multilateral commitment to solving it, then we
are at least part of the way there; we are out of the starting gate.
However, the federal government has to show leadership on this. Simply saying
that housing is now a unilateral provincial jurisdiction and leaving it to the
provinces while maybe transferring tax points or whatever will not do the job.
We have national standards in education and health. I believe that housing is
the third fundamental building block of sustainable life in Canada, and the
federal government needs to show the kind of leadership that is needed of a
national government to address a national problem.
Mr. Anderson: I will set out my three top priorities. The first is a
national anti-poverty strategy, and within that, two, a national housing
strategy. The last would be a strategy as part of that national housing strategy
addressing First Nations, Metis and Inuit housing. Above all of the housing
issues — both in terms of on- and off-reserve and in urban Canada — Aboriginal
housing is the number-one issue we should be addressing. Their core housing need
is so much more severe than for any other group in our society. Canada stands
accused — and rightly so — all over the world for its negligence in dealing with
Mr. Ballantyne: There are two ways to answer this — that is, from the
people side and the program side. From the people side, there are clearly those
living in social housing and who will live in social housing in the future and
we need to protect that stock and keep the gains we made in that regard. While
it is an obvious self-interest to champion, given where I am and who I work for,
it is essential across the country. If the 600,000 units across the country
start to erode and disappear, that will put us farther behind the rock.
Second, we have to think about those low-income Canadians who, for the most
part, are working in urban centres and contributing to the health of the economy
and the health of cities; we have to do something on the supply side. It does
not always have to be just fund a social housing program. There is a lot on the
taxation side that could be done to improve the ability for rental housing to be
produced more economically. There are ways to incent private investment into
rental housing that do not exist today. We all forget that most urban
multi-residential units were built under government-incented programs. There is
very little rental housing that was produced naturally out of economic
circumstances. It was largely incented to happen through the taxation system,
and we have forgotten that.
Third, I would say that whatever you do in housing do it in an intelligent
and connected way so that more than one issue at once is being solved.
The Chair: Those are some great thoughts.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I had a side chat with Senator Keon, and
we wanted to say to everyone assembled that there are no national standards in
Canada with regard to education or health. Granted, there are more programs
around them, at least with health. I just wanted to put that comment on the
I wanted to ask if there are models. It seems to me that, other than seniors,
perhaps the saddest group is that of our youths on the streets, be they
Aboriginal or new Canadians, or whoever. My understanding around accommodation
for them is this: You go in at a certain time, you may have supper or something
to eat, you stay overnight and you have to leave in the morning — a revolving
door, which does not accomplish anything, really, besides a little protection
from the elements.
Are there any models in Canada that incorporate more than just housing, that
would, I would hope, integrate social, health and educational elements? Are
there any models in Canada that you would care to tell us about where housing is
only a part of the model?
Mr. Ballantyne: I can cite two for you in the city of Toronto. I am
sorry to be so Toronto-centric, but my experience is born of that city.
Senator Munson: The Leafs are there.
Mr. Ballantyne: There is that tragedy as well.
There are two organizations in Toronto. One is Covenant House, which happens
to be around the block from where I live downtown. Covenant House deals with
street-involved youth. They provide them with housing for a period of time, job
support and job counselling, and they work with them to get them ready to move
into independent living. Individuals engaged in the program subscribe to a
certain code of behaviour and rules, but it is a youth-centred and youth-focused
environment. It is a nice, comfortable, clean facility, in an area common to
them. The youth have not been extracted from the centre of the city and taken to
somewhere that is completely foreign to them.
Covenant House has a fairly high success rate. It is largely funded through
some government assistance but also private donation. They have to spend a lot
of energy to do that.
The other innovative organization is a group called Eva's Phoenix, born of
another group dealing with homeless issues, focusing solely on young people.
Young people built Eva's Phoenix. They rehabilitated an old City of Toronto
facility. The youth worked with unions and trades to learn skills. They continue
to learn skills, and trade skills in particular, and they leave Eva's Phoenix
after a period six to 12 months to go into jobs. The success rate of Eva's
Phoenix is very high, taking street-involved youth and bringing them back to a
life in which they have a strong peer group that they can relate to, that is
healthy, has healthier lifestyles, job skills and a social confidence and a
civic engagement that they otherwise do not get from being on the street and
being moved in and out of shelters temporarily.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Can you give me an idea of the numbers?
Mr. Ballantyne: I do not know about Covenant House. Eva's Phoenix
works in groups of 20 to 25, so it is a fairly high and intensive program, but
that is what it takes to save a life.
The Chair: We are trying to get some of these groups here. We have one
from Halifax already scheduled, and we hope to get Eva's Phoenix in as well,
because that is another dimension we have to deal with.
Senator Cook: I have listened to a lot of information this afternoon.
It is a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that I will eventually put together.
The population that I have not heard anything about is the retired person
between 55 and 64 who lives in his or her own house, finds the kids gone, has
low income with no money for repairs or whatever and is probably a single
person. What programs are available for them? All of a sudden, the family home
is not affordable anymore. They just cannot afford that space called "home,''
and I am looking at baby boomers across this country. I wonder what is out there
Mr. Gazzard: It is an interesting question. Although the core need
problem affects renters mostly, it certainly does affect some homeowners, and
particularly noticeable are the rural poor in Atlantic Canada, in your province
and in Nova Scotia, where there is a family home that is in poor condition and
run down. Typically, these are problems not necessarily of affordability but of
not having the money to fix up the home. The only programs now that I am aware
of are the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Programs. This is an example of
funding directly from the Government of Canada through CMHC, but the programs
are delivered by the provinces. That is one, but I do know for a fact from
talking to officials in your province and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada that it
is not enough and there needs to be more. The living conditions in some of those
housing situations are pretty grim.
Senator Cook: I am past being a baby boomer. I am a young senior, I
guess — which is the growing concern across this country from a health
perspective. You find people living in their homes that are not fit to live in
anymore, a reality that will have an impact on their health. They do not turn on
the heat unless the kids come home, and then they pretend everything is okay.
The minute they are out the door, back to their own families, the thermostat
Life is real in those areas, and they are down at the food banks getting a
supplement while waiting for whatever pension comes in. Affordable housing is
very much a part of the life of those types of people and I would hope someone
would focus on it.
Mr. Gazzard: There are two ways to come at it: One is to provide some
way to permit reinvestment in the home; the other, as you have correctly
identified, senator, is an income problem. People in that age bracket are poor,
they have fixed incomes, and unless there is some action on the
income-assistance side, their prospects are bleak.
Senator Cook: We will see them in the emergency departments of our
hospital, so we can spend it on the front end or spend it on the other.
Mr. Anderson: I agree with what Mr. Gazzard said. The City of Ottawa
is looking at a program to allow low-income seniors in their own homes to defer
payment of their property taxes while they are still living in them. While that
is not the whole solution to the types of issues you are talking about, it does
highlight the fact that, often, urban seniors with rising property values who
are in their own home have a difficult situation. Their income deceases as
property taxes rise with some form of market-value assessment. That whole issue
of what low-income seniors are paying, not only income tax but also other
property taxes, has to be looked at.
Of course, the other solution that the co-operative sector favours is
building more co-operative housing, and that is the fundamental solution to that
issue. Give people a choice.
The Chair: I know there are many more questions, but we have run out
of time. Allow me to thank you all for attending before the committee. You have
informed us well about some of the issues involved in housing, which is part of
this complex of the poverty, housing and homelessness agenda that we have before
us now. Thank you again for your submissions.
Before we adjourn, honourable senators, we have a budget from the
Subcommittee on Cities for $40,000.
I have a motion from Senator Pépin to adopt it. Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
The committee adjourned.