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BetterTO organization turns focus on Toronto's social housing crisis

A Brief History of the Toronto Housing Crisis event hopes to demystify current crisis by looking at the past. More than 1,300 people on Facebook expressed interest in attending.

Phill Mendon�a-Vieira and Shaker Jamal started BetterTO.ca to host quarterly events about city issues that deserve more attention.

Courtesy Andrew Louis

Phill Mendon�a-Vieira and Shaker Jamal started BetterTO.ca to host quarterly events about city issues that deserve more attention.

The more Phill Mendonca-Vieira thought about Toronto's housing crisis, the more questions he had.

Was social housing always this bad? When did the city basically stop building new affordable units? How did it build so much in the first place?

"Society's views on housing have changed," Mendonca-Vieira concluded. Understanding that shift, he felt, could give us better insight into current issues.

An event was in order.

The web developer created BetterTO alongside Shaker Jamal to discuss local issues and ideas that deserve more attention — though he's passionate about housing in particular. Their first event in March looked at the broader housing crisis and was well attended.

Now Mendonca-Vieira and Jamal are focusing on social housing.

Toronto Community Housing faces a dual challenge — a record-length waiting list and billions in unfunded but critical repairs over the next 10 years — with no imminent resolution. Thousands of Toronto's most vulnerable tenants could be evicted within a few years.

"A Brief History of the Toronto Housing Crisis" takes place Wednesday evening. More than 1,300 people on Facebook have expressed interest in attending.

The Wellesley Institute's Greg Suttor will be a panelist at the event. He authored the 2016 book Still Renovating: A History of Canadian Social Housing Policy, a comprehensive look at how housing has changed in the post-WWII era.

Suttor argues that some residents take housing policies for granted as simple market realities, but they actually incentivize different types of housing: condos, rental units, detached homes.

With the event on Wednesday, he hopes to demonstrate that the status quo has not always been the case and that things can be done differently.

"Hopefully we can expand our horizons," he said.

Check it out:

The event will take place at No One Writes to the Colonel (460 College St. W.) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

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