The recent Provincial budget contains nothing to boost the hopes of Ontarians in need of affordable housing, despite the fact that 152,000 households in the province are currently on the waiting list for an affordable housing unit.
The budget for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been cut for the fourth time in four years and is down 12 per cent since 2009. Lacking is also the senior government funding to support municipalities in implementing the Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy, and adequate local plans for housing and homelessness.
The 2012 Federal Budget has also reduced resources to housing by cutting $131million from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation - our national housing agency.
So why the poor record on housing? Well, for starters, it’s not an election issue. When we have the opportunity to tell our politicians what is important to us, affordable housing never makes the list.
I have a simple explanation for this. The majority of us don’t have a personal connection to affordable housing. In contrast, most of us have visited an emergency room, an after – hours clinic or a doctor’s office in the past year. So when the government talks about emergency room wait times or access to family doctors we can all relate to these issues in a very personal way. These are issues that cut broadly across the population.
Then there are the issues, like affordable housing, that are perceived as being relevant only to a specific segment of the population. Let’s face it, the majority of people including myself have never lived in affordable housing, and many of these same people, despite the economic uncertainty of our times, do not envision this changing. So affordable housing becomes something that other people need, not a priority for most voters.
I would like to propose a different point of view: That affordable housing should be of interest to all of us because it is good social policy on many levels.
Affordable housing is a critical social determinant of health. In simple terms, decent housing helps people stay healthy, which in turn reduces health service costs.
It is also a key component of an effective poverty reduction strategy. Affordable housing enables low income households to access needed food, clothing and transportation, which in turn can support involvement in training, education and employment.
Affordable housing is also critical to building and maintaining good communities that are diverse, vibrant and productive; communities that can provide opportunities to all their residents.
Not addressing our need for affordable housing means we continue to see tens of thousands of households access the shelter system each year in Ontario. It also means that many families continue to reside in inappropriate and unsafe accommodations and are not supported in reaching their potential. I received the following email a couple of weeks ago.
My name is ____________, application number is _____________. I've been on the waiting list for Toronto Housing for more than 6 years now and I am writing because of my situation.
Currently I am living in a cold, moldy and no ventilation basement apartment, I would not have a problem with it if it was just me but now I am expecting my first child, I am 7 months pregnant. The reason that I reach out is because I am very desperate to move as I suffer from severe allergies and Rheumatoid Arthritis which makes my pregnancy high risk as I am on steroids.
Because I am so desperate and this situation is just awful is the reason that I am reaching out to you, if I could rent a regular nice apartment I would do so but my credit score is not good due to my student loans and this makes it impossible to rent in Toronto unless it's a dungeon basement, which I currently live in.
At the moment I am on Employment Insurance, due to sickness and maternity, and rent is starting to take a toll on my finance as I pay $695 each month on just rent.
I really need help, I am in an awful situation, as it is very cold in the apartment, moldy and I get stiff due to my arthritis. I am begging for help, I know there is something that can be done I don't want to get worse and put my baby at risk. If you wish you can send someone to my home and see this siuation I live and you will understand why I am so upset, this situation has made me depressed. Please help.
Please let me know if there is a program I should know about, or if there is an office I can go to, if there is any assistance that can be provided to me.