What would a budget with a heart look like? Affordable housing options

The 2023 City of Toronto budget includes a proposed $48 million increase for the police using revenues from property taxes. Instead of greater investments in enforcement, what if that funding was invested in the areas that evidence shows will build a better, caring, safer, affordable and livable City for all

In a series of posts, we look at alternative ways $48 million could be spent, ways that show more love and that will improve life in Toronto. Today, we consider addressing the affordable housing crisis through two programs that could increase access to rent–geared–to–income (RGI) affordable housing and preserve more existing affordable rental housing at risk of being lost.

Affordable housing options — with an additional $48 million we could use:

  • $28 million to provide affordable housing for 1,750–3,500 households using RGI subsidies; 
  • $20 million to acquire 100–133 additional units annually in small apartment buildings and multi-tenant houses to keep these rental homes permanently affordable through the Multi Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) program. 

Affordable Housing & RGI Subsidies 

Torontonians struggling with the high cost of rental housing are desperate for affordable options. Over 81,000 households are on the social housing waiting list. According to the City of Toronto, the average wait time for social housing varies from 8 to 15 years, depending on unit size.

Despite the urgency of the situation, the 2023 City budget proposes less than a 1% increase to its RGI subsidy program, over the 2022 target. There’s definitely room for improvement in this year‘s budget.

An increase of $28 million to the RGI subsidy program would increase access to affordable housing for an estimated 1,750-3,500 additional households, based on typical subsidy amounts required for nonprofit and private market housing and household income levels.¹

Acquiring and Preserving Existing Affordable Housing at Risk & the MURA Program 

Existing affordable housing is in short supply and much of it is at risk. Preserving this essential housing stock is imperative. The City’s MURA program provides funding to partners, including community land trusts, to acquire and preserve existing affordable rental housing at risk of conversion in Toronto. 

According to the City of Toronto, the program aims to “remove properties from the speculative housing market and create permanently affordable rental homes; improve housing stability for current and future tenants; improve the physical conditions of buildings; increase capacity in the non-profit and Indigenous housing sectors; and ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the homes. Under MURA, eligible properties will include small apartment buildings (up to 60 units) and multi-tenant houses (also known as rooming houses) that are either vacant or occupied and at-risk of being lost due to conversion.” The City dedicates 20% of MURA funds to Indigenous housing.

The 2023 City budget includes about $15 million in unspent funds from previous years and an additional $10 million using revenues from the City’s Vacant Homes Tax for the MURA program. Toronto City Council has committed to include $10 million annually and is seeking support from other levels of government for this important program.

An additional $20 million would fund the acquisition of small apartment buildings and/or multi-tenant homes, including between 100 and 133 affordable rental units per year. It’s critical to safeguard this limited affordable housing stock before it’s gone.

Notes on the Police Budget

The 2023 Toronto Police Service budget includes an increase of $68.2 million, or 5.5%, from all revenue sources, over the 2022 budget. This includes grant funding from the provincial government which is earmarked for specific police services. The City’s contribution to this increase is $48.3 million using revenues from property taxes. Our analysis considers how the $48 million net increase from property taxes could be reallocated to improve services and benefit Toronto residents. 

The 2023 TTC budget, although not included in our analysis here, includes a significant increase in the number of special constables using enforcement approaches on transit. This is a significant increase for policing overall, across these two budgets.

Next up… Mayor Tory’s budget is expected to be released tomorrow, February 1. We will report on the mayor’s budget and continue our analysis of how $48 million could benefit Toronto residents through improvements to critical and underfunded programs and services.

Many thanks to housing policy expert and researcher Greg Suttor for his analysis and RGI subsidy estimates.


¹  Estimates provided by housing policy expert and researcher Greg Suttor. Typical subsidy amount in nonprofit housing: $8,000. Typical subsidy amount in private rental housing: $13,000–$16,000.

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