International Year of Older Persons

discussion: Housing

seniors & housinggovernment responsibilitytenant protection actaffordabilityavailabilitysafety/security

Seniors and housing today

  • About 200,000 of Toronto’s 900,000 households are headed by seniors.
  • Of people 65 and over in households: 65% are homeowners, 20% are tenants in private rental housing, and 15% are tenants of public or non-profit housing.
  • Number of senior home-owners increased by 40% between 1986 and 1996.
  • Number of senior tenants increased only slightly between 1986 and 1996.
  • The percentage of households headed by seniors is likely to increased in the future, especially in Toronto since seniors are less likely to move to the suburbs.
  • Toronto Housing Company has about 60% (17,000) of its units for seniors at geared-to-income rates.

Responsibility by government for housing

  • The federal government has decided to stay pretty much out of housing (e.g., CMHC). Its main policy appears to be to stay out of trouble.
  • Ontario passed the Tenant Protection Act, and passed major responsibilities to municipalities.
  • There is no policy at any level of government that housing is a human right.
  • There is a greater focus in recent years on individuals or families providing for themselves. The problem: this doesn’t fit with today’s lifestyles (families live far away, move a lot, etc.).

Effects of the Tenant Protection Act

  • Overall, this is being seen as being the opposite of tenant protection. That was a bad euphamism. Instead, it is viewed as a handout to landlords by the Ontario government.
  • Some seniors are being harassed to move. Landlords are quick to try evict them, because their rents have been kept low by rent controls in the past.
  • Seniors are being receiving maximum rental increases.
  • Repairs and maintenance have lessened noticeably.


  • Rental housing becoming much more expensive for seniors. In 1986, 40% of seniors spent 30% of their income on rent. In 1996, those same people spent 58% of their income on rent. Rents are rising ahead of inflation, incomes are rising below inflation.
  • Own homes are much more affordable (only 17% spend more than 30% of income on; housing), but not all seniors can, or want to, maintain homes.
  • Tenants in geared to income housing also had housing rise from 25% of income to 30%.
  • Sudden shifts in municipal property tax rates have made living in their own homes unaffordable for some.

Availability of geared-to-income housing

  • In Toronto there are now about 8,000 seniors waiting for geared-to-income housing. This has doubled in the past decade, according to Housing Connections (run by Toronto Housing Co.).
  • Buildings that were formerly "seniors only" are now admitting others who qualify for geared-to-income housing. There is a fear this may erode the availability of spaces for seniors.
  • Homelessness is greater than you would think, because homeless seniors are usually "stored" somewhere — you rarely see them on the streets. It results from lack of affordable housing.
  • Shelters are not adequately supported.
  • No long term strategy or regulations for retirement homes.

Availability of market rental units

  • Vacancy rates are very low. New units tend to be basement or attic apartments in houses (not very accessible or appropriate for seniors) or condos (not very affordable for many seniors).
  • Toronto has lowered taxes on new rental housing an a building incentive.
  • There is some attempt to control condo conversion of rental units.

Safety and security

  • Many seniors have to live in housing where they do not feel safe because it is all that they can afford.
  • Protection for frail seniors is not being addressed.
  • Elder abuse in housing is a serious issue and is not being addressed to any great extent.


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