POVERTY MATTERS: Finding affordable housing during a housing crisis

The following blog post was first published as an article in InQuinte on January 30, 2018. Please find the original article here.

 

Finding affordable housing during the housing crisis

“Housing is hard to find,” said Jane on her housing woes.  That would be an understatement.

Affordable housing in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties is pretty much at zero. Poverty rates in the two counties are above the provincial average – with 1 in 6 children living in poverty. For single parents, poverty increases with 1 in 4 single parents living in poverty.

What does poverty and housing have in common? If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it. So what does this look like? What’s the reality of living without stable shelter?

The Poverty Roundtable Hastings Prince Edward has been talking to people about housing over the last year. Members of the roundtable and friends of the roundtable shared their stories.

This is Jane’s:

In November, Jane was without housing. Having recently escaped from domestic violence, she sought temporary shelter at a women’s shelter.

She described her situation: “It’s really hard to be honest, it’s hard and it’s difficult. Especially … being pregnant.

“I’m in (Hastings Housing) to look for resources and I’ve seen a couple so far. I’m new to the community. I like it so far but to find housing is really hard. Even for a bachelor it is very expensive.

“I looked at one place and it was over $800 for a 1-bedroom plus hydro. And when the baby comes I’ll need a 2-bedroom and that’s over $1000.”

Jane explained that her only source of income was ODSP, an income support program in the province of Ontario that provides monthly income to eligible people who are temporarily or permanently unable to work due to a physical or mental health disability. Eligibility is determined by medical assessment and strict criteria.

“I get $615 for basic needs and by the time I get my milk and I’m diabetic, so I need to get my insulin, and ODSP doesn’t pay for that right now so I’m pretty much broke.”

Jane also spoke of others in similar situations, pregnant mothers or women with young children who are unable to secure stable housing.

For now, Jane is in transition housing, but will have to move soon.

Earlier this year the government released the Canadian National Housing Strategy – a $40-billion investment that comes after 30 years without investment. The rollout of the strategy will begin in 2019.

The affordable housing shortage, compounded with unaffordability, means we have a few years to catch up to ensuring people have stable homes.

While affordable housing is being built locally in the next year – with the support of our municipalities, in particular Quinte West, Prince Edward County and Belleville, community agencies are stretched thin providing crisis and immediate supports, and rallying together to meet urgency.

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