Gentrification and the frenetic pace of development in Toronto are having a disproportionate effect on the city’s seniors.
About a third of seniors rent, with the majority spending more than 30% of their income on housing, and as rents keep rising it is becoming especially precarious for seniors who live on fixed incomes.
Seniors are often the victims of “renoviction,” a ploy landlords use wherein they renovate their buildings so that they can charge higher-than-guideline rents. Unfortunately, the cost is prohibitive for many seniors.
“A significant [number] sense that landlords are targeting them because they have been living in their homes for a long time, and their rents are lower than what landlords can get at the current market rate from new tenants,” Katie Plaizier, interim executive director at the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, told Tvo.org.
The possibility that many seniors could end up homeless is all too real. According to Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services, which partners with other organizations to run a program called Out of the Cold, there’s been a 5% increase in seniors in the last three years, comprising nearly half of all frequent guests.
Affordable housing doesn’t appear to be a realistic option, either. In Toronto, the waiting list is almost nine years and 100,000 households long, however, for those who don’t qualify for special priority status, the wait is even longer.
Etobicoke resident Elizabeth Slone has waited nearly a full decade and told Tvo.org that she doesn’t believe she’s any closer.
“I’ve attended meetings on the housing crisis, but I don’t see any solution. Housing must be a right,” she said. “It’s a very small percentage of happy seniors that can travel to Florida in the winter and have a cottage in the summer. Every Friday the church is making a free dinner—it’s full of seniors.”
Another facet of seniors’ housing tribulations is that when they find affordable housing, it’s usually far out of the city core, where all of their health care communities are. Moreover, studies have demonstrated that moving seniors out of established communities or away from support services has deleterious effects on their health.
Plaizier has called on the City of Toronto and the provincial government to step in with immediate solutions.
“Prevention is one of the strongest tools to maintain liveability. We must ensure better access to eviction-related supports, especially for seniors.”