Today we stand in solidarity with those who continue to fight for an affordable and accessible city of Toronto. As we work to create governance systems that prioritize addressing our social housing crisis, we must continue to subsidize housing for low-income tenants, build new social housing stock that provides people with affordable opportunities to live in the city, and eliminate homelessness by prioritizing the needs of the marginalized, racialized, and disenfranchised who continue to live in precarious housing situations.
In our discussions about housing inaccessibility and unaffordability we must contextualize the roots of the housing crisis in the decades of disinvestment and downloading of responsibilities across levels of government, and recognize that this emergency is not new – it is a struggle that lower-income/working-class individuals, especially those who are racialized and marginalized, have been battling alone for decades.
To move forward successfully, we must recognize that housing is a fundamental human right – as such, everyone has a right to adequate housing that is affordable, secure, and safe. We must end the trivialization of “millennial” experiences. The structural problems that we experience today are the result of the commodification of housing and a failure of government housing. In this context, young people are not choosing to rent; we are forced to because homeownership is no longer a viable option, to say otherwise is insulting to the lived experience of the majority. Furthermore, our discussions about gentrification and displacement must go beyond "urban hipster" and "young professional" discourses that ignore the institutions and processes that systematically disadvantage young people along intersectional lines of race/ethnicity, gender, class, age, and so forth.
At the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s “Youth Talks: Housing” event on May 2, 2017, a number of concerns were brought forward by youth at the table. Our representative officials should have a duty and responsibility to consider these important concerns, as we move forward with our advocacy and direct action together:
We must center our work on lived experience
Young people, or millennials, are not a homogenous group; applying an intersectional framework allows one to illuminate differences in experiences and to further understand the root causes of systemic injustice, as well as social and economic inequality
We must value youth voice – this requires taking youth experiences as expert advice, giving young people responsibility to organizing, being willing to hear criticism and create solutions and leadership that is sustainable
Inadequate housing can perpetuate marginalization and discrimination – we need to build a system that reflects the diversity of needs and experiences
Homelessness and youth homelessness should not be separated – racialized and LGBTQ+ young people make up the majority of youth who experience homelessness; multiple instances of homelessness should be a signal that our child welfare system is not working well
We need accountability! One way of doing this is through a legislative right to housing
Those who are privileged should use their power to engage with others and create a city that is accessible and affordable for all
Housing is only one of the many costs that young people have to bare – our solutions must go beyond housing policy and include: a revision of our tax policy, an equitable city budget and incentives for child care, transportation, and student debt
Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie Edna Ali Housing Lead Executive Director
Created by City Council in 1998, the Toronto Youth Cabinet is a youth-led advocacy organization and the official youth advisory body of City of Toronto. Through outreach, engagement and training, the TYC provides a critical gathering place for diverse young people interested in making change within a municipal governance context.
If you have any questions, email our Housing Lead at firstname.lastname@example.org