It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying: a prison.
The day after the Liberals’ election defeat, the new housing minister, Michael Chan, was shocked: the Star reported that the last of 2,700 units of housing promised under the new federal government had still not been handed out.
“I will never forget that day, and that day will always haunt me,” Chan said.
The housing minister said he thought that his department would have more to offer than the last, but was devastated by the revelation that it wasn’t enough. He said he was now left with no choice but to send people home without a home.
“There were people living in the housing for five years with nowhere to go,” he told reporters. “I am sick to death about it.”
“We didn’t get it,” he said. “We are doing the best we can with what we have with the mandate.”
The housing minister is also the minister in charge of the government’s response to the housing crisis.
In a way, the government has a choice.
On the one hand, Chan is right to be upset. It was made clear from the beginning that the housing promise was not going to be fulfilled. The numbers from the new feds agency to help with housing were disappointing: less than one per cent of the promised $15-billion price tag. And even though the first few hundred units promised by the Liberals are still under construction, at $4.9-million each, it looks like the vast majority of promised housing units are not yet even in the hands of new Canadians.
But the government is not without options. The government could do what the Liberals did and do a pilot project with the one per cent — a limited experiment to try to get the project off the ground. And the government could let the promised housing units languish, or move to keep people off the streets.
Let’s start with the latter — moving people onto the housing waiting list. A housing ministry report from last year estimated that there are 9,000 single-room-occupancy (SRO) units in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) without waiting lists and 2,700 with waiting lists.
When the Liberals announced the first stage of their housing program back in