Finding new ways to address affordable housing

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Name: Asim Hussain

Title: Director of Customer Experience, Transformation, and Innovation

City: Toronto

Access to affordable housing has always been a top concern in Toronto, and it’s even more so in the wake of COVID-19. More than 1 million people in Ontario have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and a good number of them live in the province’s largest city. That’s why Asim Hussain, who joined City Hall in January, has made housing one of his first priorities. Job one is learning more from residents about the barriers they’ve faced. One problem he’s uncovered: excruciatingly long waits — sometimes 10 years — for city housing. That lapse makes it difficult to meet people’s needs in real time, Hussain says. “Ten years ago, I was single. Now I’m married with kids.” Another concern his team has identified is an emerging one. Traffic spikes to the “eviction” section of the city’s website have uncovered what Hussain believes are growing worries about what will happen when COVID-related renter protections end. While housing-related issues are nothing new, there’s now an added urgency. It’s no longer just about housing, Hussein says. “It’s a health issue. It’s an equity issue. It’s an access issue.”

Pro tip: “Who we’re working for is our residents. They need, they expect, and they deserve better services.”

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Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program. bloombergcities.org

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