- The Quarterly
- Audit Excellence
|Quarterly: Spring 2020 - City of Toronto|
Improving Outcomes: Addressing Toronto’s Affordable Housing Needs
Toronto is a successful and prosperous city, and yet many low-to-moderate income Torontonians have increasingly limited access to safe, stable and affordable housing.
In 2017, the Auditor General for the City of Toronto launched a series of audits in areas that fall along the housing continuum. This article highlights the results of the first three audits, completed in 2019, and actions taken since.
Moving Forward Together: Opportunities to Address Broader City Priorities in TCHC Revitalizations
TCHC revitalization initiatives are a significant undertaking – they offer the chance to plan and build a community starting from the ground up. They also provide an important city-building opportunity by improving the quality of life of TCHC residents while physically transforming former public housing neighbourhoods into mixed-income, mixed-use communities.
Aligning Revitalization and City-Building Objectives
We found that it has been a challenge for TCHC to balance multiple priorities within funding constraints. Successfully addressing multiple city-building objectives through site redevelopment, such as increasing the supply of affordable housing, requires the City to coordinate key priorities, raise the visibility of the funding issues and ensure there is a plan to achieve overall desired outcomes. To do this, a broader, more integrated approach for the City as a whole – not for TCHC alone – is needed.
Outcome-Focused Strategies Allow Measuring Achievements
In recommending revitalization priorities and establishing funding strategies, we highlighted that TCHC and the City should work together to create a formal development strategy. They should also establish ways to measure the outcome-focused goals to be set out in the strategy.
The City may want to measure the extent of:
We also noted that long-term social impacts and city-building benefits may be non-quantifiable but are equally important and should be evaluated. Creating a formal development strategy with specific measurable goals will help TCHC and the City to evaluate the complex outcomes of future revitalization projects for the City as a whole in terms of both financial and non-financial impacts (outputs / outcomes) and whether the strategy is achieving its intended outcomes.
Opening Doors to Stable Housing: An Effective Waiting List and Reduced Vacancy Rates Will Help More People Access Housing
The demand for RGI assistance significantly exceeds the supply and only a small percentage of waiting families gain access to subsidized housing each year. There are more than 100,000 households reported to be on the City’s social housing wait list, some of whom have been waiting more than 10 years for assistance. The audit focused on improvements to help more families to access housing subsidies. We found the wait list had significant data integrity issues, which slowed down the process of matching applicants with available housing units. Because of this slow process, an average of 1,400 social housing units were sitting vacant in 2018, at a cost of $7 million.
Safeguarding Rent-Geared-to-Income Assistance: Ensuring Only Eligible People Benefit
As an extension to our audit of the City's social housing waiting list, we looked at the administration of RGI and the verification of each household's ongoing eligibility for RGI assistance while living in social housing. We found a number of indicators that may impact certain households’ eligibility for RGI assistance. The audit recommended that the City take greater responsibility to identify and address indicators of ineligibility to help prevent providing assistance to ineligible households, and assist more waiting and eligible people to access stable housing.
1 Rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance is provided to low income tenants at rates tied to tenants’ incomes. RGI is rent paid for subsidized housing. In most cases, RGI is set to be 30 percent of gross monthly household income, before taxes and deductions.
About the Author
The City of Toronto’s Auditor General’s Office is responsible for assisting City Council in holding itself and City administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for the achievement of value for money in City operations. The Office's work has been featured in several industry publications and has been recognized by leaders in the performance audit and fraud industry. To learn more about the Auditor General's Office, please visit toronto.ca/audit or @TorontoAuditor.