We promote the rights of people with mental
illness to live in the neighbourhood of their choice.

Every person has an equal right to accommodation, free from discrimination on the basis of mental illness, another disability, source of income or any other personal characteristic.

Meet Jeff and Katherine

Jeff and Katherine live in a neighbourhood where a supportive housing development is planned. They’ve heard a lot of conflicting information and like many of their neighbours they have a lot of concerns. Click on the questions below to learn more about most of the common concerns that come up during the development process.

How will supportive housing affect our neighbourhood? (more…)

How can you ensure your tenants will not pose a threat to our children and schools? (click for a response…)

You probably already have people with mental illness living in your neighbourhood. Perhaps they are your neighbours, your friends, or members of your own family. If so, you probably already know that most people with mental illness are not a threat to you or your children. In fact, the most common mental illnesses, such as depression and severe anxiety, tend to cause people to be more introverted and isolated than anything else. It’s no surprise, then, that representatives of Toronto’s Police Service report that supportive housing in their division rarely generates complaints from neighbours. Still, it is hard not to be alarmed when we read frightening stories in the media – even if we know that the stories are reported because they are unusual. A common theme in these stories is that they are about people who were not receiving support. It is this very “support gap” that supportive housing fills. Learn more about mental health and housing.

This has always been a quiet, well-kept neighbourhood. How can we be sure it stays that way? (click for a response…)

Supportive housing residents like quiet, attractive neighbourhoods – just like everyone else. That’s why supportive housing aims to blend into the neighbourhood. They’ve been pretty successful. A recent Toronto study found that most people didn’t even know there was supportive housing on their street, and those that did know had no complaints. If concerns do arise, address them by treating the supportive housing tenants like anyone else. If you have a local resident association or host a street party, invite them. If you have a dispute, work it out the same ways you would with any other neighbour. If the issue you can’t work out involves a City by-law, call the City’s by-law enforcement division. And in the unlikely event you spot criminal activity, call the police. In other words, treat supportive housing tenants as you would expect your neighbours to treat you.

Is this the right location? (more…)

Why don’t you ever put supportive housing in rich neighbourhoods? Our neighbourhood already has more than it’s fair share? (click for a response…)

People with mental illness are attracted to neighbourhoods that work for them, in the same way that new immigrants, families, or young singles will tend to congregate in neighbourhoods that meet their needs. That usually means locating supportiive housing in areas that are affordable, both because many people with mental illness have low incomes, and because government-funded housing is designed to be as economical as possible. The best options for supportive housing are small apartment buildings, large houses or building sites suited to supportive housing development – ideally near public transit and affordable shops. For that reason, supportive housing is often drawn to older downtown neighbourhoods, particularly those that have not yet gentrified, and neighbourhoods with good transit service. That doesn’t mean these neighbourhoods are saturated with supportive housing. There are only 12,000 people living in supportive housing in all of Ontario. Even if they all lived in Toronto’s five downtown wards, they would make up only 4.3% of the total population. The reality is that there is just not enough supportive housing anywhere to meet the needs.

Why can’t it be a neighbourhood more suited for these developments? (click for a response…)

The best people to judge whether a neighbourhood is “suitable” are the people who will be living there. That’s why supportive housing providers regularly consult with tenants in their existing buildings and those on their waiting lists when they are considering new locations.  That doesn’t mean every building will suit everyone, and applicants can and do turn down a building or unit they don’t want. It does mean that the decision rests with the individual, not with his or her future neighbours.

How will supportive housing affect us financially? (more…)

Our home is our biggest investment. How can you assure us supportive housing won’t drive down local property values? (click for a response…)

Everyone wants to protect the value of their property. Perhaps that is why the property values surrounding supportive and affordable housing have been the subject of over 100 studies in the US and Canada over the past 30 years.  These studies have looked at the impact of every type of affordable and supportive housing: large and small, new and renovated, families and singles, for people with mental illness, or addictions, or youth, or ex-offenders, or seniors. They have looked at the impacts on property values and saleability, often over many years, and compared them with similar properties with no affordable or supportive housing nearby.  The results provide overwhelming evidence that affordable or supportive housing does not lower surrounding property values. In fact, the astonishing news (from such major studies as NYU’s 2008 research on 123 supportive housing developments) is that the values of property close to supportive housing go up faster than others in the neighbourhood. Get more information on property values.

I work hard to pay for my house. Why should my taxes go to build nice homes for people who don’t have a job? (click for a response…)

The unemployment rate among people with mental illness is very high. That’s a social problem that has to change – and supportive housing is part of the solution. For many people, supportive housing has provided the stable base from which to get or complete an education, get support, and rejoin the workforce. That’s a benefit for everyone.  In fact, supportive housing is one of the least expensive ways to help people find their feet – According to a 2009 City of Toronto report, the daily cost of living in supportive housing is half the cost of an emergency shelter and less than 1/20 the cost of a psychiatric bed. Learn more about the impact on communities.

Don’t we get a say in this? (more…)

I feel like this plan has been developed behind this community’s back. We have not been updated on any progress or informed about how it will work. (click for a response…)

This confusion about planning requirements has been the source of too much bad feeling between supportive housing providers and their neighbours. It’s time to set the record straight.  Supportive housing is governed by the same planning laws and regulations as every other development. Many supportive housing developments are “as of right” — no special planning approvals needed, and no public information or consultations required. You likely bought your own house under the same “as of right” designation. That means you just moved in, without asking your neighbours’ permission or providing them with information. If a development does not conform to the Official Plan or Zoning By-law, then the developers must consult the owners in the immediate neighbourhood. But this consultation is about the land use – density, residential vs. commercial, set backs, design – not about how the building will be managed or who will live there. What kind of information should you expect? Consider the information you’d provide if you needed planning approvals to add an extension to your house. You’d probably be ready to answer questions about the extension’s height or cladding. But you wouldn’t expect questions about your medical history, how you supervise your children, whether you planned to hire a housekeeper, or how late you stayed out at night. Find out more about city planing issues.

If you’re using taxpayer’s money, shouldn’t we get a say in how the building is run? (click for a response…)

Look at it this way. Our tax dollars pay for hospitals, but that doesn’t give us the right to cruise around hospital wards and decide who should be there, what treatment they should receive, or how the building should be managed. Instead, we elect officials who support policies we believe in. We have a civil service that carries out these policies. And we have professionals who make decisions according to the standards of their profession.  It’s the same with housing. We have province-wide funding programs and city-wide housing policies, and staff who make decisions to put those policies into action. Housing providers are accountable to their funders, and also have the same legal obligations as any other property owners and landlords. Those responsibilities do not include reporting to neighbours or consulting them about day-to-day management. They do include responding to specific problems when they arise, in the same way you would respond to your neighbours if they had a complaint against you.