New affordable housing unit to be built on site of former youth treatment facility

A parcel of land in Etobicoke that used to be a rehabilitation centre for troubled teens is now slated for an affordable housing unit.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced this affordable housing development in a news conference on Oct. 31, 2017.

In the 1960s, this location used to be a self-contained treatment facility for children and adolescents who were unable to live at home. It was called the Thistletown Regional Centre.

Dr. Paul Sherman, program head of family and community social services at the University of Guelph-Humber ran the adolescent residential treatment programs at this centre.

“The teenagers at this program were some of the most disturbed, conduct-disordered youth in Ontario.”

  • Paul Sherman, Program Head

Dr. Sherman said they eventually moved these programs into hospitals, out-patient clinics and counselling centres. He said since they shut the whole facility down about three or four years ago, an abundance of space became available.

Praveen Senthinathan, media spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, said this housing development is expected to be done in the next few years. He said, the housing unit will prioritize “the needs of families and seniors.”

Senthinathan said the rent for affordable rental housing units will be “at or below 80 per cent of the average market rent for the municipality.”

Since they are still in the planning stages of the development, they have not made a final decision on the number of housing units. However, at least 20 per cent of the residential units will be affordable housing units and 10 per cent will be affordable ownership units.

Senthinathan said this housing unit has to be owned and managed by non-profit rental housing providers. They are in the process of finalizing housing providers for this project.  This housing unit will be accessible to tenants who are referred from non-profit providers or the City of Toronto.

This provincial land is in the Mount Olive-Silverstone- Jamestown neighbourhood near Kipling and Finch. Senthinathan said this neighbourhood was selected because affordable housing was needed in the community.

According to Senthinathan, this land has the potential to develop and bring profit. This neighbourhood is close to the new Finch Avenue West Light Rapid Transit Line, which is expected to be open in 2022.

Dr. Sherman said seniors, large families, immigrants and Indigenous people should be prioritized. He said when families cannot afford housing, they move away from the city. Dr. Sherman said a city needs to be diverse and multicultural. Toronto loses its diversity when these families live outside of the city.

“It is really nice to see the government stepping up like this and recognizing that we should not have cities that are homogenous.”

  • Paul Sherman, Program Head

Dr. Sherman said one way that Canada can combat homelessness is by making affordable housing a basic human right. Governments then would have to ensure that every citizen has access to affordable housing. He said, “this would be very complicated but it could be done through political will.”

“The need for housing has gone up substantially.”

  • Yogi Acharya, organizer of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

According to Statistics Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, more than 240,000 households in Toronto are in need of affordable housing.

Dr. Sherman said the government needs to address whether housing is a human right. The United Nations considers housing as a human right. However, Canada is not legally required to provide a home for all its citizens.

Laverne Blake, manager of programs & client services at Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter said the rent in Toronto is extremely expensive. Blake said there is a lack of affordable housing in Toronto especially for women “so they live in the shelter for about six months to a year.” She said this new affordable housing unit development is a good step towards helping individuals who are struggling to afford housing.

In its efforts to combat housing problems, the Ontario government has started “the new Provincial Affordable Housing Lands Program (PAHLP).” Senthinathan said the government aims for every person in Ontario to have an affordable home.