York Region is facing a growing problem with no solution in sight. Scattered throughout the region, homeless encampments are becoming a concern for residents. These encampments are located on private and public lands and demand a quick and safe solution.
A look at the York Region’s budget breakdown tells us that the pandemic had a significant impact on the number of homeless people. In 2018, $86,725,000 was allocated for Housing Services, with no money specifically allocated to Homelessness and Community programs. By 2022, York Region had a budget of $108,635,000 for Housing Services and an additional $30,280,00 for Homelessness and Community Programs.
With homeless campsites scattered throughout York Region, all this money doesn’t seem to be enough to solve this issue. Compounding this problem is a provincial-wide housing crisis. In response to this, the Province of Ontario is moving forward with Bill 109 - More Homes for Everyone Act and Bill 23 - More Homes Built Faster Act.
The province’s effort to solve the housing problem is a step in the right direction, however, neither of these programs addresses homelessness directly. Bill 109 is intended to make it easier for residents to become homeowners, while Bill 23 looks to make it easier and faster for developers to put up new houses and buildings.
At a deputation during the June 28 Markham city council meeting, planning and development consultant Maria Gatzios spoke on behalf of a group of developers. During the discussion on housing, the topic of homelessness did not come up at all.
“The intent of Bill 109 is to build homes faster by streamlining development approvals,” said Gatzos. Focusing on cutting down development time rather than creating affordable living spaces is what Bill 109 and Bill 23 seem to be all about.”
At a press conference on Oct. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answered questions related to Bill 23. In discussing the issue of housing, Trudeau addressed another problem causing a shortage in available housing, the commodification of housing.
“The fact that people are using homes and houses as an investment vehicle, particularly corporations, rather than families using them as a place to live, to grow their lives, to build equity for their future. We have been working with partners and will continue to work with the Minister of Housing and the Finance Minister to create conditions in which housing can and should be owned by people living in them rather than corporations looking to improve their bottom line.”
Although homelessness is on the rise, the topic seems largely ignored when discussing the housing issues facing GTA’s residents.
George Redak, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Review