Why are high-income earners living in low-income housing?

CTV Toronto, May 13, 2015 - There are 91,000 people on the Toronto Community Housing Corporation's waiting list, 60,000 TCHC units in the city -- and more than a dozen families living in TCHC properties despite an annual household income of more than $90,000.

The numbers don't seem to add up, but according to the public housing agency, these families help to pay the bills.

The TCHC says high-income earners who pay "market-rent" rates generate approximately $70 million a year. That money goes towards subsidizing other units.

"In order to have the affordable housing, you need the subsidy," TCHC board member and Coun. Ana Bailao told CTV Toronto. "And now, we don’t have the subsidy."

There's no income cap on who can rent TCHC units, meaning six-figure families can live in these homes.

In total, 157 families who live in TCHC homes have an annual household income of more than $60,000, records obtained by CTV Toronto through a Freedom of Information request reveal.

TCHC units are also home to 46 families who earn more than $80,000, 15 who earn more than $90,000, and seven who earn more than $100,000. Of these families, 27 households are subsidized, and the rest pay market-rent rates -- which are considered low in today's rental market.

For example, a one-bedroom TCHC unit in the area of Danforth Avenue and Main Street goes for $911 a month, and a three-bedroom townhouse in the area of Sheppard Avenue East and Neilson Road rents for $1,300 a month.

These numbers are shocking to some TCHC residents, who say they struggle to make ends meet while their high-income earning neighbours pay relatively low monthly rent.

"I find it a struggle just to try and survive here," said Maurice Liberty, who lives on approximately $16,000 a year and was put on a wait list for three years to get his subsidized TCHC unit. "These people, they even have cars. I don't understand."

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong echoed Liberty's concerns, saying many TCHC residents are dependent on the city's community housing to survive.

"There are tens of thousands of people who need affordable housing, who can't afford to rent an apartment, who can't afford to buy groceries, living week-to-week, who need that housing," he said.

But the TCHC doesn't plan on changing its policy.

"Simply from the perspective of the TCHC, I think we like the fact that we have some market-rent homes within the portfolio just for the diversity," TCHC CEO Greg Spearn said.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who is also a TCHC board member, says having a mix of high- and low-income families also helps to build a sense of community.

"What you want to have is people of different income levels living together," he said. "That's how you build a cohesive community."

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