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Single room occupancy housing : two cases, Vancouver and Toronto Antolin, Mercedes Mompel


This study examines the Single Room Occupancy Housing (SRO) stock of the City of Toronto and of the City of Vancouver. The term SROs refers to residential hotels and rooming houses. Rooming houses located in converted single family dwellings constitute the primary SRO form of Toronto. Residential hotels constitute the primary SRO form in Vancouver. This study examines the historical evolution of the SRO stock, the characteristics of the units, the socioeconomic characteristics of the residents, and the provincial and municipal policy relating to the SRO stock. SROs were the first form of accommodation for many immigrants and transient male workers. SRO units in rooming houses also housed couples and families during the first decades of the 1900's in both Toronto and Vancouver. A dire shortage of affordable rental housing forced families to live in overcrowded conditions in single rooms. SROs today house primarily two three of population. Those who live in single rooms permanently, those who live in single rooms because they cannot afford to rent an apartment, and those who live in single rooms temporarily. Contrary to what has been commonly assumed, residents of SROs are not transient. SRO residents, although they might move frequently, they do so because they continually face displacement. Evictions are common because of real estate market pressures. Many SRO units are being converted to other residential uses or demolished. The main group of SRO residents still consists of single older men, however, the percentage of women and of young men has increased among the SRO residents in recent years, especially in the case of the rooming houses of Toronto. The majority of SRO residents live on incomes which are well below of the poverty line (approximately, 50% of the poverty line). These residents pay 50% to 75% of their income on housing. SRO housing is an important component of the rental housing market of Vancouver and Toronto. SROs constitute the last housing resort before homelessness. However, with the exception of SRO units in social housing projects, SROs existing today in Toronto and Vancouver do not constitute an adequate form of accommodation. In most cases, the physical condition of the units is substandard and the rents are still very high for the average SRO resident. In Vancouver, SRO units are not fully recognized as part of the rental housing stock because they are not protected by provincial landlord and tenant regulation. The continued availability of SRO accommodation looks more optimistic in Ontario than it does in British Columbia. The main focuss of the housing policy of Ontario and Toronto towards the SRO stock has been to rehabilitate, to improve and to expand the SRO stock. In addition, Ontario has recently drafted legislation which protects the rental housing stock from demolition and conversion and it has extended security of tenure rights to the residents of rooming houses. On the other hand, the main thrust of the housing policy of the province of British Columbia and of the City of Vancouver towards the SRO stock has been to relocate SRO tenants in social housing units

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