Doug Ford’s relationship with social housing has't necessarily been supportive. This September, Ford allowed for landlords to legally evict tenants even if no criminal action occurred. Now poverty activists are wondering if there are any ulterior motives with Ford’s potential new plan for affordable ownership, a program that would allow tenants to pay rent towards eventual ownership.

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The Ontario premier hinted at the idea during a “fireside chat” with the CD Howe Institute. “Everybody talks about affordable housing which is really important — I talk about affordable ownership,” he said Monday. “There’s a difference.”

Over 1,400 housing units owned by Toronto Community Housing sit empty, despite the desperate need for affordable housing in the city. Most, the city says, are due to pending demolitions due to gentrification and further redevelopments (i.e. condos). Another reason given is just the sheer volume of repairs needed at certain addresses, which in the meantime have been closed down or sold off.

“But give them the opportunity to own their own home and they’ll take care of it, and over a 20-year period they can have full ownership of it and I just think it will work out a lot, lot better.”

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Ford spokesman Ivana Yelich said the government announced the Community Housing Renewal Strategy and More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan last spring as a way to kickstart new plans to attack the lack of affordable housing – in addition to other problems in market, including lengthy mortgage approval times and the building approval process.

When asked whether the “rent to own” policy had been vetoed or not, Yelich said: “The government is currently considering a full-range of options as part of the strategies it has launched to help people find a home that meets their needs and budget.” Vague, yet not unhopeful.

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Ford also said was looking to streamline processes to grant approvals, noting that the backlog of paper work and red tape were holding up the prospects for new construction.

“We’re going to unleash the contractors and let them start developing,” he said.

Seems too good to believe, especially given Ford’s bad track record with Toronto’s poor – including the canceling of a basic income pilot project that left 4,000 to be reabsorbed into the welfare system.

Let’s see if this “fireside chat” turns into an actual policy.