Protecting our Seniors

Protecting our Seniors

I spoke to a resident over the weekend who looked at my literature, handed it back and said "nothing is being done to help seniors".  She was frustrated with the election process and felt she would rather not vote and be further disappointed in the lack of support than to be let down yet again.  We spoke of change, of the future of the city and at the end of the conversation I wished her well.

Etobicoke Centre has one of the oldest population average in Toronto.  Many seniors live in our community and feel the same pressures as the resident above.  Property tax increases, water and hydro increases, the cost of food, of living expenses rise as their income remains static.  How do we protect our seniors to remain in their homes instead of being priced out and forced to sell?

There are a few programs that help offset property tax and water increases; but there are provisions that may make many ineligible to receive help.  

City of Toronto website - click for more information

City of Toronto website - click for more information

As listed above, this is not intended on an ongoing basis.  The help offered by the city is temporary and also comes with certain stipulations.  

The Property Tax Increase Deferral Program (PTIDP)has the potential to help seniors maintain their ability to afford their homes.  Property tax is one of the most commonly used ways Toronto has increased revenue to pay for the services and improvements needed.  Increasing property tax is an inevitability that should be done with respect to the impact it has on residents.  Unfortunately the PTIDP only offsets the increases by creating a lien on the property that must be paid back "if you no longer own the property".  

There are better programs that help offset the costs or cancel increases, but given the increase in property values in Etobicoke, many houses may soon begin to be exempt from the Property Tax Increase Cancellation Program.   Does this program need to be expanded? Can this program be expanded?

The unfortunate part of the whole program is although the intent is great, residents that may be near or above the acceptable limits may be forced to sell their homes, leave their communities to survive their retirement.  What makes matters worse, what is their alternative?

Seniors & Affordable Senior's Housing

The honest truth is that there is not enough affordable housing in Toronto; the affect on seniors is also disheartening.  A recently released report by Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) listed statistics on senior's homes within Ontario.  Looking deeper into the report, I was shocked on the monthly cost of being in a senior's home.  The photo below shows the percentage of the monthly cost.

There is less than 0.5% of spaces in Etobicoke below a monthly rent of $2000, with a majority of the rent over $3,501 a month.  How can seniors on fixed incomes be able to afford living in such a community?  This does include meals for 79-95.8% of facilities; access to medical & nursing services is also available at 63-83.9%.  Having seniors sell their homes to be able to afford living in a senior's home only last a limited timeline based on home valuation and length of stay within the senior's home. 

Sadly the total number of spaces in Etobicoke is listed at 823.  This shows that even if seniors in Etobicoke wanted to transition into a senior's home, there is really no vacancy for the growing increase in elderly residents.

SENIORS & AFFORDABLE HOUSING (Rent-Geared-to-Income) RGI

When speaking about senior's homes, a large percentage may not be able to afford it as an accommodation.  Affordable housing is limited and unless properly included in new developments, Etobicoke Centre has no plans to build affordable housing.  This is an issue that spans across the entire province, with 49,529 seniors on the waiting list for RGI (Rent-Geared-to-Income).  30% of residents on waiting lists are seniors; a number that will increase as our population ages.  

In terms of years. For Ontario.  Toronto rate is 5.9 years.

In terms of years. For Ontario.  Toronto rate is 5.9 years.

Solutions:

The easiest stated but hardest to implement solution: BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING!  This is a problem that can be solved by investing in building homes that many residents and seniors can afford.  The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has a plan that is large in scope and likely beyond the financial constraints of the City of Toronto government & Provincial Government.  Below is the costing of their recommendation, found on their website.

Click on photo for report details

Click on photo for report details

Toronto (and Ontario) need to find a solution to affordable housing for all residents, especially seniors.  This is an issue that needs more attention, more critical thinking and less lip-service.  Our representatives need to make a bold and concise decision on how to proceed; get the right feedback from residents and experts and then implement.  

I cannot offer any clear solution, it would be disingenuous for any council candidate to say otherwise.  This subject is too critical and too important to allow politically motivated solutions not based on facts and merit to be tabled.  Take an honest look at what candidates promise, then dissect their planning and funding model before supporting.  

How council finds those solutions is based on who you vote to represent you.  I've taken the time to bring facts, figures, reports to your attention on this serious subject. I do support the building of affordable housing and want to help council begin to look for solutions.  Further questions on my position, please contact me at info@peterfenech.ca

Posted on September 23, 2014 .