Posted: September 21st, 2022. By: Michael Braithwaite, thestar.com, Original Article.
Rising costs continue to impact our most vulnerable, Michael Braithwaite writes
While challenges related to the pandemic, inflation, and the rising cost of housing have been felt by everyone, it’s our most vulnerable community members who are experiencing poverty and homelessness that have and continue to be much more negatively impacted.
It’s suggested that households should spend a maximum of 30 per cent of their income on housing, which, with housing costs in the GTA as they currently are, means that a household income of $90,000 is needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
For 595,000 individuals and families receiving Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) supports, with incomes below $8,000 and $15,000 a year, the challenge of finding safe and affordable housing is next to impossible.
Together with community partners, my team at Blue Door, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping people facing homelessness secure affordable housing, are working harder than ever to house the estimated 250,000 people who experience homelessness each year in Canada.
Finding safe affordable housing has become much more difficult.
It is one of the greatest barriers to ending homelessness.
Rents are continuing to skyrocket, and many landlords are asking for damage deposits or six months’ rent in advance, something most, if not all, people supported by Blue Door can’t afford.
Many people experience homelessness due to family breakdown, including domestic violence, and are left with bad credit and no identification, further adding to the challenge of renting an apartment. With so many more people now having to choose between food and rent due to high inflation, action to maintain and develop additional affordable housing is urgently needed now.
For candidates hoping to get elected or re-elected in this fall’s municipal elections, it’s crucial that affordable housing be a part of their platforms.
By working with organizations like Blue Door, candidates must explore and create new affordable housing options like land trusts, as well as using or repurposing municipal-owned buildings and lands. Officials must work with their planning departments to speed up the process of developing housing and keep costs down, so that they can maximize the impact of new federal funds, like the Rapid Housing Initiative.
Most importantly, candidates need to be listening to the voices of people with lived experience to know best where to channel their energy and our resources.
In this election, more than ever, affordable housing must be a priority.
Michael Braithwaite is the CEO of Blue Door, host of the housing and homelessness podcast “On The Way Home,” board chair of the youth homelessness focused organization, A Way Home Canada, a tireless advocate for people experiencing homelessness and a member of the York Region Advisory Council.