By Nina Badwal
– August 2021 –
For confidentiality purposes, the name of the newcomer in this story has been changed.
Marie came to Canada as a refugee a year ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was staying at a shelter and then got a short-term accommodation with a friend. Looking for a place to call home, Marie turned to the St. James Town Community Corner for help.
“She had a language barrier, she only spoke French. She didn’t know how to communicate and tell me exactly what the issue was and what type of accommodation she was looking for. So she got her pastor from her church. He explained to me that she just got a job at a restaurant, and she’s looking for a place to share like a house,” says Lindiwe Sibanda, Housing Worker at The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO), a partner of The Corner.
Sibanda says her client saw a flyer The Corner had sent out about information on housing and called the number provided for the community hub. “She was looking for a place close to her workplace. So I sent her some listings and she eventually found something from one of the listings I sent her.”
“We provide access to housing [listings], we help clients complete the forms and we help them navigate the system. Most of them are not computer literate so they don’t know how to submit their forms, or how to even apply for the subsidized housing program. So we assist them in that whole process.”
Although Marie was successful in finding the type of housing she needs, newcomers with families face bigger obstacles in finding affordable housing in Toronto. “With this client, she is a single lady, so it was easy for her to get a room,” says Sibanda. Most of her clients want subsidized housing but the waiting period is long, she says. According to the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s website, an applicant can expect to wait:
- 7 years or more for a bachelor unit
- 12 years or more for a one-bedroom unit
- 10 years or more for larger unit sizes
A TCH apartment building on Wellesley Street.
A TCH apartment building on Bleecker Street.
Subsidized housing is provided by the City of Toronto where tenants pay rent-geared-to-income which is 30 percent of a household’s total monthly income before taxes. “It’s really quite reasonable. That’s why most of the clients are willing to wait,” says Sibanda. As of July 2021, the City’s website states, there are 79,332 households waiting for subsidized housing.
A new report commissioned by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and WoodGreen Community Services points out that “33% of Canada’s international immigrants settle initially in the GTA, more than any metropolitan area in Canada.” However, the report says, many immigrants are moving to other regions of Ontario because of the affordable housing crisis, “illustrating that the economic advantage of international migration to the GTA is being increasingly stunted…Young families are particularly keen on considering moving to more affordable areas to save.”
At The Corner, Housing Worker Lindiwe Sibanda continues to assist new immigrants with their housing needs and wants newcomers to know that they can always get support at community hubs like the one in St. James Town. Along with helping clients find affordable housing, The Corner in partnership with TNO, also offers services such as:
- Updating or checking the status of a client’s current subsidized housing application
- Information on Landlord and Tenant Laws
- Assisting with landlord issues
- Eviction prevention support
- Advocacy and referrals
- Assistance with access to the Rent Bank loan and Energy Assistance funds
For more information on the Housing Program, please contact:
St. James Town Community Corner / The Corner
200 Wellesley St. East