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TDSA Housing Sub-Committee

Members of TDSA Housing Sub-committee:

Adam Smith (Vita), Antonet Orlando (Meta), Arthur Mathews (The Salvation Army Broadview Village), Bryan Keshen (Reena), Frances MacNeil (CLToronto), Paul Bruce (Cota), Raphael Arens (L’Arche), Shay Johnson (Housing Navigator), Sherry Gautam (Springboard), Susan Bisaillon (Safehaven) and Tullio Orlando (Montage)

KEY MESSAGES

Objective:
To work collaboratively with TDSA member organizations to influence / develop new approaches, policies, programs and incentives to increase access, equity to and stability of affordable and supportive housing for the individuals served by TDSA member organizations.

TDSA’s Housing Sub-Committee, has been created to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the critical shortage of affordable housing (rental and ownership) options available for people with developmental disabilities. We want to initiate constructive and productive dialogue, and work collaboratively, with all of the relevant players (our member organizations, housing authorities, developers, and all levels of government as well as families) to generate new and effective approaches and strategies to address both the short-term and long-term housing needs of individuals served by TDSA members.

Issue Overview:
• To put things in perspective, about 300,000 Ontario adults have an intellectual disability. An estimated 40% - or 120,000 of these individuals – also have a concurrent mental health diagnosis.
• Right now, an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 individuals in Ontario are on a waiting list for residential support/affordable; over 4,500 live here in Toronto. And that number will only increase. Most will need affordable and supportive housing.
• There is an incredible gap between affordable/supportive housing supply and demand.
• In Ontario, over 100 people with developmental disabilities are waiting to transition to or from treatment/safe beds, incarceration or hospitals; almost 50 of those people are currently waiting in treatment centres and hospitals.
• It is vitally important for people with developmental disabilities to have access to housing and neighbourhoods that enhance their feelings of belonging and safety in community. It is estimated that up to 90% of women and 86% of men with disabilities experience some type of abuse in their lifetime.

Barriers to access:
People with developmental disabilities face three major barriers when it comes to accessing appropriate and affordable housing.

1) Cost/Income
• When we look at all of the excellent and detailed work the City has done on the issue of affordable housing it is, by and large, based on income levels.
• Most people with intellectual disabilities receive a monthly stipend from the provincial government in the form of an Ontario Disability Support Payment (ODSP). The maximum monthly payment is $1,110 or $13,320 a year, which puts them well below the incomes levels considered by the City. People with developmental disabilities are amongst the lowest of the low when it comes to income levels, and this puts them at high risk of homelessness, abuse, violence and encounters with our health and legal systems.
• Furthermore, ODSP limits the amount people are allowed to spend on rent to $479 a month. And, even if their families are able to help them out, which many of them are not in a position to do, they run the risk of losing at least part of their monthly ODSP stipend if they contribute more than $500 a month to ensure that their loved ones have a decent place to live. While this is a provincial matter rather than a municipal one, people with intellectual disabilities are at an extreme disadvantage and in an adverse Catch-22 when it comes to securing affordable housing, particularly in the City of Toronto where it is in short supply and the cost of living is high.
• And, as this population ages and transitions from provincial ODSP coverage to OAS, the situation becomes even more dire: their income typically declines on OAS and they lose benefits that used to cover disability-related expenses, so they have even less to spend on rent.
• Individuals have few options to increase their income levels to keep up with affordable market rent or rental increases.

2) Appropriate and Accessible Supports
• Individuals have few resources to help them navigate affordable and supportive housing opportunities.
• The need for affordable housing and the provision of a variety of appropriate and individualized supports for people with developmental disabilities go hand in hand. This population requires both in order to be able to live interdependently or have a full life in the community.
• Currently, the planning and design phases of affordable housing development typically don’t take into account the support needs of people with developmental disabilities, including required health, physical and social care. Finding a place to live does not guarantee, and may even put at risk getting the personal support required, unless a person is already connected to a service agency or supportive network; we would like to work with the City and the developers to design housing that works for people.
• As the City’s recent work confirms, affordable 3+ bedroom rental and ownership accommodation is extremely difficult to find. Where it does exist, it is usually reserved for families. This impacts the people TDSA serves as shared accommodation enables agencies to situate people in the same location, cluster the necessary supports, and provide opportunities for inclusion and skill-building.

  • It is financially challenging for agencies to dedicate supports for individuals with developmental disabilities who also require accessible apartments and 24/7 supports.
    • Being made aware of new builds is critical in order to advocate for a number of units of different sizes in the same building which would, in turn, enable TDSA members to put in place the necessary supports (in the same building) to enable people to live more independently.

3) Societal Attitudes and Stigma
• Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states, in Article 19 that people with disabilities to have the same right to appropriate housing, the right to choose where they live as well as the assistance and supports they need to live independently in the community in order to avoid segregation and isolation.
• Condo and affordable housing boards/groups are often resistant to including people with developmental disabilities in their buildings: there is still much confusion, discrimination and stigma associated with the population TDSA serves.
• Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires all new builds to meet prescribed accessibility standards, however, some of these standards often don’t fully meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities and/or are not adhered to by developers or considered by building inspectors. This means that new stock coming on the market may not be appropriate for TDSA populations.

Conclusion

TDSA realizes that this is not a problem that the City of Toronto has to solve on its own. This issue of increasing affordable housing stock for people with developmental disabilities is highly complex and involves numerous partners at all levels of government and across several different ministries.

In its final report to the legislature, Ontario’s Select Committee on Developmental Services identified the lack of appropriate housing as the most critical issue facing people with developmental disabilities. Without sufficient and appropriate supportive housing options, individuals and families are put at great risk as a consequence of the physical and emotional exhaustion/burnout experienced by aging parents caring for their adult children at home, excessively long hospital stays on the part of those who experience an acute health issue, a lack of staff training in other facilities (i.e. long-term care homes) where people are sometimes sent to convalesce, and a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, homelessness and incarceration for those with no family or place to call home.

We all need a safe place to call home. The province is already working on this issue and we want to increase awareness about the issues effecting people with an intellectual disability, look beyond the current crisis-driven system and enable a proactive approach to find new and effective solutions for the longer term. We are open to collaboration and working partnerships that align with the work that’s being done at the federal, provincial and municipal level with the many policies, processes and incentives that are in place or are in the planning phase to achieve our shared goals.