We've all heard the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you think about it, the same can be said of progress. In a world where everyone has an agenda, describing progress is all about framing it the right way.
So when Mayor John Tory wrote in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star two weeks ago that, "For the first time since setting [its] affordable housing goal almost a decade ago, this city council will actually meet—and exceed—that target this year," his words may not have reflected the full reality of that 'progress.' A deeper analysis of the city's work shows that some of the targets that have supposedly been reached are framed somewhat ambiguously by the Toronto mayor.
In launching the Open Door program two years ago, Tory's aim was to fulfill a target that was set by council back in 2009, whereby it would annually create 1,000 new affordable homes. This year, he claimed that the city finally met that target, writing, "By the end of the year, the city is tracking that 1,200 affordable rental units will be approved."
That is certainly a net positive. However, none of those Open Door-commissioned projects have been completed. Even among the 1,200 units Tory cited, only half have have been fully approved, with many only boasting "pre-qualify" status.
There is also the question of what constitutes affordable housing and whether it actually accomplishes the goal of accommodating the population subsets Open Door is hoping to. An affordable rent is currently defined as one that is 80 per cent of market value; but with the average market rent for a central Toronto one-bedroom apartment currently sitting at $1,336, 80 per cent may not go far enough.
"It is not just the job of the affordable housing office because their mandate to provide affordable housing in the way it is currently defined leaves out a lot of people who can't afford affordable housing," said Kira Heineck, the executive lead with the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness.
The city of Toronto should be commended for the progress it has made on this front. But it is clear that the details in the fine print must be cleared up as well.