As we approach National Housing Day on November 22nd, the shelter and housing crisis in our City is unlike anything we have ever seen before.
COVID-19 has amplified this crisis as more people lose income and struggle to survive. The provincial and municipal governments refuse to institute a moratorium on evictions, paving the way for new waves of evictions. Shelters are full, and remain sites of fear for a perfect storm for COVID transmission as conditions do not allow for distancing or enough personal space. Encampments have grown in every park across the city, and communities of people in tents are staring down the approaching cold weather with no real alternatives. All levels of government have failed miserably to house people. We see drops in the bucket, tiny Bandaids on a giant wound. The City of Toronto recently opened up the Better Living Centre as a respite site, complete with dystopian cell-like glass cubes – no privacy, no respect for the dignity of poor people in our city, no offer of one person one room, nor enough beds for everyone who needs them right now.
Overdose deaths have nearly doubled since last year. Doubled. We are seeing the collision of the housing/shelter crisis with an overdose crisis and the results are catastrophic. Communities are losing people – loved ones, friends – at a shocking and horrific rate. This grief and trauma cannot be measured.
We need housing and we need it now. Not trickled down half measures, but bold, determined, full access – HOUSING. Immediately.
In the spring we fought for access to hotels and housing as an alternative to overcrowded shelters. We won some spaces in hotels, but that has proved to be, once again, a drop in the bucket, and with a dangerous lack of adequate harm reduction supports on-site. A few weeks ago we marched again on 214-230 Sherbourne, an empty property and abandoned building in the middle of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, to demand it be expropriated and immediately converted to housing, which the city had promised to do.
As we head into another winter. As COVID-19 cases rise dramatically, it feels like entire communities are left on deflating lifeboats. Who will get a chance to survive?
Today, we renew our support for the 6 Demands for Immediate Action created by Encampment Support Network:
Many people across Toronto and beyond are organizing and resisting – from supporting the encampments to blocking evictions – poor and working-class people who are defending themselves, supporting each other, and organizing.
In the same way, there can be no half-measures from the government, there can be no half-measures in our organizing as we fight for what poor and working-class people need to survive in this critical moment. If you are not already in the struggle – join it. Join a neighbourhood anti-eviction committee with Parkdale Organize or People’s Defence, join the Encampment Support Network, join Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, join OCAP, or fight where you are. Let’s work together, let’s organize, let’s win.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
November 22, 2020
Subject: Expropriation of 214-230 Sherbourne for the purpose of conversion into social housing as described in: A Community Driven Proposal for Public Housing: submitted by Open Architecture Toronto
Despite Toronto’s on-going homelessness disaster, a pandemic, the imminent threats of mass evictions being created by rent arrears / Bill 124, ongoing displacement by gentrification , 1.1% vacancy rates and rising rents we hear only silence on the housing proposal we submitted in 2019. Why? Our community is asking! Unsafe, homeless and precariously housed people are asking. Even worse- they are dying. Waiting for a home, or fighting not to lose one!
Are you aware of how your silence betrays and undermines our East End community’s efforts to obtain affordable housing? How do we explain the hypocrisy of your promises to create housing solution responses to homelessness and then witness you walking away from our community-driven Sherbourne St. Housing Development opportunity! Housing is not built on paper. It requires all kinds of spades in the ground.
The City of Toronto Act defines your responsibility; ‘’The City has the responsibility and authority to provide any service or thing that the City considers necessary or desirable to the public.”
We want to remind you that the City of Toronto Act gives it very specific power related to Expropriations. “The City has the power to acquire land under this or any other Act that includes the power to expropriate land in accordance with the Expropriation Act.“
There were 12 expropriations made in 2019. None of them was in support of housing.
The City can access valuable land. We have defined what is necessary for, and desirable for, the low-income public of our East End Community. But, the City of Toronto, which has the power to ex
propriate, does not use it. Why? There are vacant lands and abandoned buildings in neighborhoods all across this City, held for years by investors and developers in pursuit of real estate profits. Many of these holdings will never be used to serve the primary need of low- income communities for safety, health, and a home. Their focus is on housing for profit, and not housing as a human right. You have known this for years. We are compelled to observe that your support for profit focused condo developers is in perfect alignment with your negligence of low income and homeless people, who cannot find a place to live. We say. erve the people. All of the people.
We do not accept your current excuse, “The City has no standard policy to govern the acquisition / expropriation of properties for low income housing”. This is no reason to ignore the goal of building social housing. It closes the door on working with our community, or pursuing creative approaches. Pushing our proposal into the waiting rooms of Create Toronto and the Affordable Housing Office, may satisfy some highly paid bureaucrats that meaningful work is being done. But It does not satisfy us. Or resolve the need of our people for housing.
They are exhausted, running in a civic and government sponsored homeless marathon: it’s milestones – exclusion, poverty, disrespect, denial and betrayal. Do what is just and right.
EXPROPRIATE AND BUILD NOW!
Govern yourselves accordingly,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Location: Allan Gardens
Saturday October 24
For the 11th year in a row 214-230 Sherbourne sits empty! It should be social housing!
We have a plan! ocap.ca/214-230-development-proposal
In 2019, we showed the City of Toronto how 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income housing could be built on this land.
Join us to demand the city expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne now! Winter is coming. No More Homeless Deaths.
Meet at Allan Gardens followed by a short march.
Jane Finch Action Against Poverty
Food will be provided. COVID protocols will be followed. Please wear a mask, keep 2 meters apart. PPE and hand sanitizer will be provided if needed. Please stay home if you have any symptoms or have recently traveled.
Please contact us for specific accessibility needs.
Poster design by: @rosemary.snell
OCAP is fighting to stop the sale of 214-230 Sherbourne – a series of 7 vacant properties at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne – to condo developers. Instead, we’ve proposed a plan that would build between 150 to 260 units of public-owned rent-geared-to-income housing on that land. The fight won’t be easy, but we can take inspiration from battles of the past and present.
So join us for an outdoor summer movie screening, complete with dinner and popcorn, at the site as we feature short films that profile resistance that stopped evictions and forced the City to build public housing.
Note: The event will be postponed in case of rain.
We launched our community-driven development proposal for building public housing at 214-230 Sherbourne at city hall yesterday, July 3, 2019. The report that lays out the plan for building between 150 to over 260 units of rent-geared-to-income housing at the site can be downloaded here. The proposal is a product of a collaboration between OCAP, the Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto (OACTo), and allied academics, and activists. It’s design was informed by feedback provided by nearly 100 people in sessions organized in Regent Park, and at the All Saints church drop-in centre. The proposal can radically transform Dundas and Sherbourne into a vibrant community by including its most vulnerable residents, rather than at their expense.
It’s a vision we will fight for, join us.
Wednesday, July 3 | 9am | City Hall, Outside Committee Room 1 (2nd floor)
Toronto Star article
Press conference at 9am, deputations to Planning and Housing Committee at 9:30am
Following months of work, the collaboration between OCAP, the Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto (OACTo), and allied academics and activists has achieved its goal: creating a development proposal with the potential to radically transform Dundas and Sherbourne for the benefit of its most vulnerable residents, rather than at their expense.
Join us tomorrow to support the launch of the final report, to unveil the hand-scaled model of the proposed development, and to demand that council start by expropriating the properties.
The proposal lays out plans for building between 150 to over 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income units to house poor and homeless people at 214-230 Sherbourne Street, a series of seven vacant properties steps from the southwest intersection of Dundas and Sherbourne. The final design for the site was informed by design feedback sessions organized in the Regent Park and the Dundas and Sherbourne area, with nearly 100 people offering feedback on four aspects of the development proposal: overall building form, ground floor programs, public space qualities, and domestic space qualities.
214-230 Sherbourne have been a historic part of Toronto’s poor and working class people living and dying at Dundas and Sherbourne. We will fight to make sure these properties will also be part of their future. Join us.
The housing crisis has a solution: the City must break ground to build new rent-geared-to-income housing. But it refuses to do so, even as people die homeless and properties lie vacant.
So join us for a ground breaking action at 214-230 Sherbourne, and then march with us to City Hall to reclaim the homes occupied by poor and working class people for generations.
214 – 230 Sherbourne are 7 adjacent properties located at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. For 50 years, houses on this lot provided homes for poor people. 10 years ago, two of those houses were demolished, leaving just one 30-room house standing.
A decade later the lot remains empty and the house abandoned. The owners want to sell, but to private condo developers. That’s not housing poor people in the neighbourhood can afford. So the City must step in and take over those properties – expropriate them – and build social housing.
On June 13, we’ll start that process. 27 organizations have signed a letter calling on the city to expropriate. Join us.