TORONTO--Six years of Harris government housing policy, including massive social housing cuts and growing handouts to private developers, has been a dismal failure, according to a technical report released today by the Ontario Alternative Budget Working Group of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
"Ontario tenants paid more than $330 million in increased rents to their landlords," reports Michael Shapcott, Research Associate at the University of Toronto's Centre for Urban and Community Studies and author of the report. "Under the Harris housing policy, landlords were supposed to build lots of new affordable rental housing in exchange for big rent increases. But there has been almost no new rental housing built anywhere in Ontario, and the loss of rental housing from demolitions and conversions to condominiums has exceeded any gains from new stock. There is now a deficit of 74,000 rental housing units"
About one-third of Ontario households rent their homes. "Renters have the worst of all possible worlds," says Shapcott. "Rent increases are running at double the rate of inflation at the same time that tenant incomes are stagnant or falling. There is a dwindling supply of rental housing at a time when the need is growing, and a cut in tenant protection laws at the very time that renters need to be shielded from the excesses of the private market."
All ten of Ontario's rental markets saw a drop in rental vacancy rates, a sure sign of a province-wide housing crisis. Not surprisingly, all ten markets also saw rental rates increase, often at double the rate of inflation. The three worst rental markets in Canada are in Ontario: Ottawa, Toronto and Kitchener. And the official forecasts point to another year of dropping vacancies and rising rents.
"The Harris government has created a made-in-Ontario housing crisis," says Shapcott. "Its policies have generated a province-wide homelessness disaster, not just in downtown Toronto, but in almost every part of the province."