How many Toronto families are waiting for social housing? How many rental units are available across the city and how much do they cost on average?
Whether you're an advocate fighting for better access to affordable housing, or a City Hall employee trying to decide where to funnel programming and resources, it helps to know the answer to these questions.
In advance of next week's Greater Toronto Summit, the CivicAction Alliance has unveiled a data bank of housing information for the GTA and surrounding regions, which brings together up-to-date statistics regarding housing, poverty and population trends.
"These are pretty startling statistics once you start to round them up," said Sean Gadon, director of the affordable housing office at the City of Toronto, who helped build the Data Bank.
The data are compiled from Statistics Canada information, municipal data and reports from the non-profit and development sectors, and provide a comprehensive picture of housing needs in the City of Toronto as well as the surrounding regions of Halton, Durham, Peel, and York.
The information is designed for use by local governments as well as the private sector, advocacy groups, academics and community partners.
Michelynn Lafleche, the program director for next week's summit, said the need for such information became obvious last year, when representatives from local municipalities began talking about housing and realized they weren't working from the same numbers.
"It's the sort of thing that, once it's there, you wonder why it ever wasn't," she said of the Data Bank.
A similar data base was built in the Vancouver region, called the Vancouver Housing Data Book, and has been used successfully by those interested in policy and private sector developers alike.
Mr. Gadon said Toronto does not have a governance body that oversees housing issues in the same way that transit issues are managed, and so a comprehensive overview of the problems the city faces can be hard to come by. The regional population is expected to expand by three million people over the next 25 years, he added, and city officials will need a clear idea of where space is available, or needed.
But collecting the information for the Data Bank illustrated the difficulty in forming a regional plan to address housing.
Ms. Lafleche said each municipality in the project defines issues like homelessness differently, meaning that their data are impossible to align and hard to compare.
At the summit, a gathering of some of the city's top thinkers and most influential figures Feb. 10 and 11, the Data Bank will be formally introduced and participants will discuss the possibility of a regional network that formalizes the language and framework regarding housing statistics.
And when it comes to rallying people to the cause, Ms. Lafleche believes the numbers they have gathered will speak for themselves.
"Even in areas where there are lower affordable housing needs, there are still affordable housing needs," she said. "There isn't an area in Toronto that doesn't have the need for more affordable housing."
The Data Bank is available through the Toronto CivicAction Alliance website and will soon be available through the City of Toronto.
Housing by the numbers
- A total of 322,415 or 19 per cent of households are in core housing need - housing that is too small, in need of repairs or is too expensive.
- There are 1,554 aging apartment towers in the region totalling more than 300,000 homes. In
- Toronto alone, this makes up 48 per cent of the rental housing stock.
- Vacancy rates decreased from 3.1 per cent to 2.1 per cent in the last year. There are only 6,421 vacant apartments available for rent out of 306,091 in the region.
Figures from Ministry of Finance, 2010; CMHC; and Stewart, G and Thorne, J., 2010