Written by Rachael Gustave
Members of the South Etobicoke/Lakeshore community have been active in their affordable housing advocacy efforts after seeing increasing barriers to accessing housing. Recent patterns of gentrification and urban renewal in this mixed income community has left long time residents priced out of the current rental market in South Etobicoke. Within the last year, recent trends in Toronto’s rental housing market had amplified impacts on vulnerable groups such as low income residents, newcomers and youth, who have sought support from local service provider agencies to address the impacts of reno-evictions, skyrottening rental prices, and harassment from landlords.
In response to growing community concern, LAMP Community Health Centre became a safe space for residents to voice their concerns and priorities for housing in the neighbourhood. This collective concern had materialized into a neighbourhood housing advocacy and action group that meets monthly to address a local housing strategy.
While a collective vision for affordable housing had been blooming through the community’s recent housing initiatives, input from local youth–those of whom make up a significant part of South Etobicoke/Lakeshore–was largely absent from the conversation. This is where my volunteer involvement with LAMP CHC kicks into gear, as we sought to find avenues to mobilize youth for the ongoing affordable housing initiative.
The 2019 Lakeshore Affordable Housing Youth Round Table was a youth led community initiative aimed to develop a network of local youth who are dedicated to community development and achieving solutions to the affordable housing crisis that includes the needs of all members. Working with a small team of local youth, we were determined to find out how the diverse group of students from the nearby college our impacted by the community’s housing plans.
Through this event, residents had the opportunity to share their experiences with housing in Toronto, gain insights from the most recent statistics and facts about housing, and begin to identify sustainable strategies that will fill the housing demand. The evening featured young professionals involved with advocacy and housing services sharing their experiences about the current rental climate in South Etobicoke. Our keynote speaker from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) broke down important info about Toronto’s current housing market and options for individuals seeking housing. Local youth discussed their experiences accessing housing and changes they would like to see within their community. Through this dialogue, we found that these local residents want the following in their community:
- housing affordability: affordable rents through equitable housing programs such as subsidized housing and maintained rent controls
- housing accessibility: housing that is livable for people regardless of their health circumstances
- anti-racist & non-discriminatory rental practices: a community of landowners and residents that understand, respect, and value diversity
- inclusionary zoning: affordable units available in all new housing developments
- collaborative planning: collaborative planning that supports the needs of citizens and other stakeholders
- shelter spaces: emergency, short term and long term shelters with adequate support resources
- supportive housing models: assisted living support for people with personal and care needs
- livable conditions & environmental sustainabilty: housing developments that are well-maintained and safe for the community
- diverse housing models: living arrangements that support both traditional and nontraditional households
- effective avenues to home ownership: supports for individuals and groups wanting to purchase a home. e.g. co-ownership and rent-to-own programs
It’s important that every person’s voice be heard and included in decisions that will affect their lives. The 2019 Lakeshore Affordable Housing Youth Round Table was an effort to inspire youth towards a vision for an affordable, livable community, where all community members have equitable access to public goods including housing, education and social services. This should be our standard for progress in society.