On February 15, 2022, the City of Toronto (the “City”) Planning and Housing Committee (the “Committee”) received a Staff Report outlining the consultation findings and concept design for a New Centralized Affordable Housing Access System (the “Report”). This Report provides details on actions taken to-date by City staff; comments from public consultations; and a concept design for the new access system. A final report is estimated to be provided to the Committee in Q2 of 2022, and subject to Council approval, it is anticipated that the new affordable housing access system will be launched in 2023.
In December 2019, City Council adopted the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan (the “Housing Plan”) in an effort to develop and implement various policy initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing in the City. The Housing Plan aims to approve 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive housing units by 2030.
To achieve this objective, the Housing Plan recommends that the City develop a new centralized access system to improve the allocation of the new affordable rental units. In April 2021, the Committee directed City staff to consult with stakeholders and create a concept design for a new centralized access system (Item PH22.10). The results are presented in the Report.
The Conceptual Design
After a three-phase consultation process with various stakeholders, City staff developed a conceptual design for the centralized access system. The key components of the concept design framework are:
- One-Window Approach: instead of housing providers advertising units through their own mediums, the new centralized system will consolidate City-administered affordable housing options into a single system. Applicants will create one account that can be used for both the social housing waitlist and affordable housing applications. The One-Window will also include tenant support resources, education and programs.
- Transparency and Consistency: by consolidating affordable housing projects under one system, the City can standardize the processes across the different programs and housing options. This design also contemplates automated communication features, where applicants will be notified when a unit is filled, regardless of whether they were selected for the unit. The standardization of the process allows the City to monitor whether units are being filled in accordance with City rules, with the hopes of achieving increased accountability.
- Simple and Accessible: the new centralized system will be user-friendly and easy to navigate. The conceptual design contemplates several features including the ability to search and filter units; applying for multiple units using one profile; an “eligibility calculator” which will calculate whether the applicants are eligible for that housing; the ability of upload required documents using the camera feature on mobile devices; and options to receive notifications by e-mail, phone or text message.
- Operational Efficiencies: the new centralized system will streamline administration by the City and automate the tenant selection processes. The use of technology will enable housing providers to fill vacancies sooner.
- Fair and Equitable Allocation of Units: the new centralized system contemplates several allocation methods (g., a randomized draw process, referral agreements, or prioritization of specified groups) to advance the equitable outcomes for affordable housing.
Interim Strategies and Actions
City staff also identified measures to simplify the process for finding affordable housing in the interim. These measures include:
- Raising public awareness of the City’s new e-mail list serve that notifies subscribers of new affordable housing opportunities as they become available;
- Updating the City’s Finding Housing website; and
- Developing public education materials to explain the differences between affordable and subsidized housing.
City staff continue to engage in consultations with various groups of stakeholders on the design of the centralized access system to further consolidate and simplify affordable housing agreements and administrative procedures.
As discussed above, a final report is estimated to be presented to the Committee in the second quarter of 2022, which will include a procurement plan, resource requirements and the overall financial impact on the City.
The centralized access system is expected to launch in 2023, subject to Council approval.
The Davies Howe LLP team will continue to monitor this program’s progress, and would be happy to answer questions you have regarding the new centralized access system.