By 2031, seniors (aged 55+) will make up one third of Toronto’s population. And finding affordable housing in central Toronto, already a challenge for Toronto’s low-income seniors, will likely become even more difficult.
In 2012, there were over 22,398 seniors on Toronto’s social housing waiting list, a list with an average wait time of 61.3 months.
An even more stark statistic: the maximum monthly income from Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is $1,286.51. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1,010.
In an effort to face the current, and future, dearth of affordable senior housing head-on, the City’s Affordable Housing Office recently teamed up with Toronto’s Performing Art Lodge
(PAL) to a hold a one-day forum brainstorming possible strategies.
PAL, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing to the city’s arts community, organized the day-long event after coordinating with their local councilor, Pam McConnell, and the City of Toronto Affordable Housing Office
"PAL reached out to Councilor Pam McConnell who in turn came to the [Affordable Housing Office] to see if we could help them as they look for better services for seniors in their building," says Gil Hardy, affordable housing officer with the City of Toronto.
The conversation between PAL and the city resulted in the creation of the "Action for Seniors Charette" -- a series of workshops and brainstorming sessions held at the Lodge last Thursday. The Lodge is located at 110 the Esplanade.
After introductory remarks by former Toronto Mayor David Crombie and Councilor Pam McConnell, the attendants--a mix of PAL residents and staff, government officials, and members of other nonprofits--divided into breakout groups to discuss different housing issues facing Toronto’s seniors.
The topics included visioning a user-friendly access system to services, alternate level of care options, and community partnerships and capacity building.
Each workshop, and the ideas generated from it, were recorded by the attendees. The Affordable Housing Office is currently working on consolidating the day’s findings into a report to be circulated to relevant agencies and governments departments.
But, says Hardy, he hopes the impact of the Action for Seniors Charette won’t end there.
"We see this as sort of a pilot initiative," says Hardy. "We hope to repeat it because the issues, though similar, might be slightly different if you’re a senior living in Scarborough or living in North York. So we want to bring this all around the city."
"We have to find ways to accommodate seniors in our city," adds Hardy. "Not just to be humanitarian--though that’s important. But also for economic reasons."
The average per diem cost for a long-term care bed in Toronto is $125 a day. But, Hardy points out, many seniors in long-term care would be perfectly capable of living on their own with a little external support. The cost of that external support would be closer to $42 a day.
"If we can invest and provide appropriate affordable housing and combine that with a support system--for example someone coming in to help with cleaning or with buying groceries--we can significantly improve someone’s quality of life while opening up long-term care beds for those who really need them" says Hardy.
Last week’s Charette, Hardy hopes, will be the first of many of these events dedicated to community brainstorming about how we might do that.
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Gil Hardy, Affordable Housing Officer, City of Toronto.