Housing is a Human Right

Canada has adopted a Rights-Based approach to its first-ever National Housing Strategy on November 22nd, 2017.  They have announced their new strategy with a $41 billion budget over the next 10 years.

In addition to existing programs,  what is new?

$15.9 billion for a National Housing Co-investment Fund 

  • $4.7 billion in financial contributions and
  • $11.2 billion in low interest loans to developers that meet certain criteria including ensuring that:
    • 30 per cent of units in a development will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rents for at least 20 years.
    • At least a 25 per cent reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over national building and energy codes.
    • 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards.

$200 million Transfer of Federal Lands to housing providers on condition that they meet environmental, socioeconomic and affordability standards.

A separate Indigenous People Housing Strategy will be developed with their input.

What is the need locally? 

  • 60% of people on low-income are working
  • 20% of employees in Grey County have multiple jobs
  •  95% of all new jobs created in Ontario were part-time
  • 1 in 3 jobs in Ontario is temporary, contract, or part-time.
  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty in Ontario
  •  17% of Grey County and Bruce County children under age 17 live in poverty.
  • 21 food banks exist in Grey County and Bruce County. 16% of the population of Bruce and Grey Counties have accessed a food bank.
  • In Ontario, the average food bank client spends 70% of income on rent.
  • Waitlist for Affordable Housing in Grey County has increased by 15% in the last year. 730 families are on the wait list.

How far the budget reaches down to support our Municipal budgets for affordable housing is still to be determined.  But the Federal leadership sets the direction for budge allocations going forward!

Measuring Homelessness in Grey County and Bruce County  

Our Housing Action Group will be monitoring and reporting on developments.   Currently, our Housing Action Group are developing the program design and implementation for Ontario’s Homelessness Enumeration on April 23rd to 27th, 2018.  This will be a Point-in-Time  Rural Survey carried out in partnership with community agencies and volunteers.

The report of Ontario’s Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness (the Panel), A Place to Call Home, stated: “Over the past several decades, homelessness in Canada has been on the rise” (2015, p.7). The experience of homelessness is understood to be a severe form of deprivation for people affected by a wide range of factors over which they have no control, such as unemployment or precarious employment, challenges with finding affordable housing, and economic hardship. Further, homelessness has
unequal impacts that are linked with racialization, gender, sexual
orientation, age, ability, language, immigration status, socioeconomic
status, mental health and addictions issues, regional location, and
Indigenous identity. Learning more about the prevalence and realities of
homelessness can galvanize community stakeholders who want to
develop more effective ways of addressing it.

Read more about Grey County’s Trends and Analysis as part of its County of Grey Housing  and Homelessness Plan (2014-2024) and Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Housing Strategy (2013-2023).

District of Muskoka scraps development charge waivers for affordable housing

Huntsville Forester

ByAlison Brownlee,  June 26th

HUNTSVILLE – The District of Muskoka has scrapped development charge waivers for affordable housing and has replaced them with a new program.

“The development charge waivers were the best plan we had in the early stages,” said Huntsville Coun. Fran Coleman. “I didn’t want to do away with those waivers until we came up with a better plan. And I think this is it.”

Coleman made her comments at a district council meeting on June 17.

The new program involves two bylaws.

“One bylaw would create a framework for program initiatives that will flexibly respond to the wide range of housing needs,” stated a media release. “A second bylaw redirects current district expenditures into the program in a phased manner over the next five years.”

The district will fund the new affordable housing initiative by redirecting about $325,000 in annual expenditures on waivers for development charges as well as about $215,000 in savings from social assistance expenditures beginning in 2014, according to the release.

Stephen Cairns, commissioner of finance and corporate services, stated in the release that the previous development charge waiver has assisted development of modest single-family homes since 2009. “We have invested over $1 million in reimbursements and we could use these funds much better and more strategically to fund multi-residential and other housing programs.

Rick Williams, commissioner of community services, noted that there are housing shortages for low-income seniors, low-income single adults, adults with disabilities and single-parent families with children under age 18.

“Each of these groups is growing across Muskoka and we are not seeing the development of quality rental accommodation to meet these needs,” stated Williams in the release. “Our wait list for rental accommodation continues to grow at a rate of 75 units per year on top of the 650 already waiting. We need to change that.”

Wait time is three years minimum in Grey County

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Monday, November 18, 2013 6:44:12 EST PM

The hundreds of people who are on waiting lists for an affordable housing unit in Grey-Bruce are, in most cases, living in crisis mode, say local advocates for low-income residents.

Unaffordable rent costs force people to take drastic measures to scrape by, say Jill Umbach, planning co-ordinator for the Bruce-Grey Poverty Task Force, and Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce Grey.

“It’s crisis management for the family,” Umbach said in an interview.

“You’re juggling and juggling and you hope you don’t drop the balls because it will seriously impact your family.”

Some people on the waiting list can pay market rent prices, but do so by cutting from other basic needs, like food, utilities and medication, they say. Some may have their heat or hydro disconnected after bills fall into arrears or must move every few months as they fall further behind on rent and are evicted.

Others may be living in unsafe, substandard units or in remote areas — where rent is cheaper but where transportation is a problem — until a unit opens up, they say.

“People are making awful choices,” said Colleen Purdon, an Owen Sound councillor and longtime social advocate.

She said some people on the waiting list may move out of Grey-Bruce and to an area where affordable housing is available.

“I think we’re losing people because we don’t have affordable housing,” she said.

Nearly 110 seniors, 77 adults and 23 families are on the waiting list for an affordable housing unit in Bruce County.

Grey County has 139 seniors, 300 individuals/couples and 127 families in their queue.

The waiting time in Grey County is at least three years.

The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, in its annual report on wait times, said there are more applications for affordable units now than ever before.

The average market rent in Owen Sound is $554 for a bachelor apartment, $686 for a one-bedroom unit and $827 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Rent is higher in Saugeen Shores and Kincardine.

The CMHC says a family should be spending 30% or less of their gross monthly income on shelter and utilities to ensure there is enough money for food, transportation, clothing and other essentials.

There are two kinds of affordable housing units: geared-to-income, where rent is calculated at 30% of a tenant’s gross monthly income; and apartments where the shelter costs are 20% below market rent.

A single parent, making $10.25 an hour, earns about $1,776 a month before taxes, which puts the cost of rent, even for a bachelor apartment, over the 30% threshold. Ontario Works recipients receive a maximum shelter allowance each month of $376 for a single person and $648 for a family of three, which is 78% of the average cost for a two-bedroom unit.

Umbach said some people are spending 65% to 95% of their income on shelter and utility costs.

Dobbyn said she is not surprised by the demand for affordable housing units in the region.

“It’s an additional symptom of the precarious work in our economy,” she said.

The local United Way made a submission in October to the Ministry of Labour’s review of the province’s minimum wage, which has been frozen at $10.25 an hour since 2010.

The agency prepared budgets, based on a single parent with an eight-year-old and 15-year-old child, and determined the “living” minimum wage should be $13.21 in Owen Sound or $15.11 in rural Grey-Bruce where transportation costs are higher. A “living wage” would allow the family to cover basic needs, including shelter/utility costs at $993 a month, as well as items that allow for “fuller participation in society,” such as school-related costs, telephone and Internet, swimming lessons and a vacation.

Purdon said to boost the number of affordable housing units, municipalities and others should be putting more heat on the federal government to create a national affordable housing strategy.

She said municipalities, like Owen Sound, should have conversations about policies or incentives to encourage developers to include affordable units in their housing projects.

Dobbyn said it is important to address the stereotypes surrounding affordable housing, so mixed neighbourhoods, with some social units, are welcomed.

Provincially, 158,500 households were on a waiting list for geared-to-income units in December 2012. The average wait time was 3.2 years.

The waiting lists in both Grey and Bruce counties shrunk from 2012 to 2013, although wait times have remained virtually the same.