Building Magazine


Nine out of 10 families in Toronto’s aging rental high-rise buildings at risk of homelessness: U of T

New research from the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work has found that nine out of 10 families living in Toronto’s aging high-rise rental apartments are in inadequate housing that may place them at risk of homelessness. The findings coincided with National Housing Day, on November 22.

“These findings reveal a housing crisis for low-income families in Toronto,” said Emily Paradis, the lead investigator on the study. “Family shelter use is increasing in Toronto and other cities across Canada, but this statistic only shows the tip of the iceberg.”

The study, based on a survey with more than 1,500 families with children living in rental high-rises built between 1950 and 1979, looked at whether their homes were affordable, of suitable size, in decent condition, safe and secure. In 89 per cent of cases, housing for the families failed to meet at least one of these basic standards. The findings have broad ramifications for Toronto, since buildings of this type accommodate about half of Toronto’s renter households.

The survey found:

• Fully half of all families in the study were living in overcrowded conditions, and almost half were in buildings with serious repair problems or persistent infestations;

• One-third were paying more than half of their monthly income on rent;

• One-quarter were in apartments that required extensive repairs, or did not feel safe in their homes;

• About one in five were at immediate risk of eviction because of arrears in rent;

• Nine out of ten families had at least one of these problems;

• About half had major problems in one or two areas of housing adequacy, while one-third had multiple problems in three or more areas.

In this context, a family crisis or widespread economic changes can easily lead to a family losing their housing. “The more housing problems a family is facing, the higher their risk of homelessness,” said Paradis.

The research was funded by the Homelessness Partnering Strategy of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. A full report scheduled for release in December will examine the implications of these findings for families, services and policy.

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