The wait in Ontario for social housing can run to 10 years

Posted on August 27, 2012 in Social Security Delivery System

Source: — Authors: – opinion/editorials
August 26, 2012.

Activists call it a “quiet crisis,” with good reason. For the fifth year in a row more Ontario households joined the waiting list for social housing than got off it. Queues across the province have swollen by a shocking 26 per cent since 2007 with some people waiting a decade for affordable housing.

For all too many, that amounts to a 10-year sentence of being trapped in poverty as rents they can barely afford gobble up their money, leaving precious little on which to live. In a country as rich as Canada, this is a disgrace.

The solution is straightforward enough: provide more housing geared to their income. But that hasn’t been a political priority and budgeting focus. Every level of government has let down the needy.

The latest grim numbers in a new report from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association show that more than 156,300 households were stuck on waiting lists for social housing at the end of 2011. Almost 70,000 struggling households were in Toronto. That’s up 3,000 from the year before.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper often boasts about Canada’s success in weathering the recession. Economists assure us a recovery is underway. But far too many hard-pressed Canadians still can’t afford decent housing. For them, no relief lies ahead.

Moreover for the first time since the association has collected these statistics, single people and childless couples under age 65 form the largest number of households on the waiting list, some 60,000 province-wide. Happily, there was a modest 1.5 per cent drop in the number of families on the list. Credit for that may be due to some of Ontario’s welcome efforts to reduce child poverty. Even so, 56,000 households with children are still in need. And some 40,000 seniors are waiting as well.

Bottom line? “New affordable housing is not being built in sufficient quantity to meet the growing demand,” write the authors of the report, released this past week. “Unfortunately, in today’s austerity climate, affordable housing does not receive the attention or dollars required.”

Toronto and other cities have a key role in planning and delivering affordable housing but they can’t do it alone. Municipal leaders, academics, housing advocates and anti-poverty activists have long urged Ottawa to come up with a coherent national housing strategy backed by federal funds to tackle the problem. Those pleas have met with a shrug of indifference from the Conservative government. But there should be no let-up in the campaign to reverse this benighted stand.

Meanwhile, the growing plight of singles and childless couples suggests that Queen’s Park needs to step in where Ottawa will not, by expanding support to other groups beyond families that need housing.

Policy-makers should also renew and expand programs that help people move out of social housing by buying homes. Not everyone in low-income housing can do this. But some can. Having government supply assistance for this transition can be more cost-effective than providing ongoing support. It also frees up social housing for others.

There are ways forward. But it requires political will to make the needed investments. Sadly, like social housing that will is in short supply.

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3 Responses to “The wait in Ontario for social housing can run to 10 years”

  1. Tracy Grech says:

    I find the fact that this is being called the “quite crisis” extremely surprising. Why would this be called the quite crisis? If anything us as a society need to be coming together and making sure that the reality of social housing is out in the open and all the facts are put out. This article clearly states that since 2007 queues have increased by a total of 26 percent. Some people are having to wait as long as a decade for housing. I believe that this is unacceptable and it is not healthy for anybody to have to go through. While families are waiting years and years to find affordable housing they are having to make the difficult decision to either spend money on living expenses or a roof over their head.

    The situation becomes more complicated when children are involved. The first few years of a child’s life are the most crucial as they determine the kids over all health in the future. Difficult decisions continue as families often find themselves homeless and living in shelters. Safe housing and shelter is a very important thing to an individuals well being. Some find themselves living in housing they can afford, however, they are living in conditions that are extremely unhealthy. Some of these conditions include mold and unsanitary drinking water. These conditions will deteriorate somebody’s health and end up causing more financial restraints for already struggling people and families. I understand that the housing problem cannot be fixed over night but I do believe that more needs to be done. Cities do play a key role in ensuring that there is enough affordable housing but they cannot do it without the help of municipal leaders, academics, and anti-poverty activists.

    This waiting list is a disgrace. We need more clean, healthy, and affordable housing for those in need. No parent should have to make the decision of whether or not they should feed their family or give them a roof over their head.

  2. caroline says:

    I find that social housing is always going to be an issue throughout provinces in Canada, as mentioned in the article throughout the past ten years Ontario has been increasing the amount of people who are applying for social housing. Many of these people range from mothers with children, fathers who cant provide financially, it goes towards anyone who has to resort to sleeping in shelters or cannot afford their monthly rent. Reading this and realizing that in reality nothing is being done, it’s understandable that a good portion of money goes toward our healthcare, but if there was more social housing available for people their health would not be at risk as much it would be if they somewhere to keep warm especially in the winter. I have seen many women on the waiting list for a long period of time at my previous employment, women who have children that need to be kept safe away from their abusive relationships. As a country it’s important to recognize what needs to be dealt with first, and place that as a priority.
    As aspiring social workers we are going to meet many people throughout the course of our life that are in this same situation, and we would want to do anything possible to help them out of that. Although this issue will not be fixed completely but I feel that Canada needs to pay close attention to social housing, people who have been on the waiting list for over 10 years lose faith, no one should not have somewhere to rest their heads at night, going beyond this issue means recognizing those who need the assistance.

  3. Lise Champagne says:

    The “quiet crisis”, why is it quiet? It should be loud; loud with people advocating to the government that a change is needed. As this article states 156,300 households are on a waiting list for social housing. In the mean time, these people must choose between a roof over there head or food in their stomach. Some don’t have a choice and are homeless and live in shelters. Makes we wonder where all the funding from our tax dollars are going too. The government has been focused on spending this funding within the health sector. Well, housing is part of the social determinants of health.

    The social determinants of health are the social and economic conditions that influence the health of people, societies and jurisdictions as whole. These determinants can make the difference between staying healthy or becoming sick (Raphael, 2004). Housing influences health in many ways. Some Canadian homes, especially on Aboriginal reserves, lack even clean water and basic sanitation which is a vast public health risk (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010)The presence of lead and mold, poor heating and draft, inadequate ventilation, vermin, and overcrowding are all determinants of adverse health outcomes. Dampness, for example, causes respiratory illness and makes pre-existing health conditions worse. Overcrowding allows for transmission of respiratory and other illnesses (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010). Children who live in low quality housing conditions have a greater likelihood of poor health outcomes in both childhood and as adults. It is not easy to separate the effects of housing from other factors since poverty, poor housing and pre-existing illnesses often go together, but studies that have separated them show poor housing conditions to be independent causes of adverse health outcomes (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010).

    Now imagine all the health related issues for those who do not even have a roof over their head. Instead of putting the money towards the health, put it towards homelessness, towards building and maintaining social housing or increasing social assistance so that we can afford housing. If people have adequate housing, they will require less health care and thus, save the money that is being put into that sector. As stated earlier, 156,000 household are struggling and are on wait list for social housing, just think of how many health issues these people have because of their economic situation; and this number will just keep on rising if our federal, provincial and municipal government doesn’t work together into rectifying this problem. From this number 70,000 households are in Toronto, one of the biggest multicultural cities. When immigrants come to Canada they come here to start a new life. They start by finding a home. As they lack the funds, this is not any easy task. They often end up in low income neighborhoods and live in crowded households (Grant & Munro, 2012). As stated earlier, crowded housing can lead to illness. The immigrants have arrived to receive a better quality of life, but are not receiving it. How can we help them? How can we help others?

    As of yet, the conservative government has been ignoring our request for help (Editorial, 2012). There are programs that other provinces have started that have made an impact on social housing. For example, in Winnipeg, with the help of all 3 stages of the government, and partners of financial institutions they created the Housing Opportunity Partnership (Grant & Munro, 2012). This allowed for the refurbishing of homes, and selling them at a lower rate for first time home buyers to get out of social housing and freeing space for others to go into social housing (Grant & Munro, 2012).
    There was a sign hope within this article, as of the government concern over alleviating child poverty; the number of families on the waiting list for social housing has dropped down by 1.5% (Editorial, 2012). This may not be a big number but it means something is going the right was. Although there is still a long way to go on this matter as there are still 40,000 family households on the list (Editorial, 2012). I do believe this statistic has dropped down as pregnant mothers or family households get prioritized on this list which then in turn holds everyone back.

    I strongly believe that if the Conservative government were to use the money they have taken out of education, taken out of social assistance and keep it all in health care, our society will not make any gains. If we take the time to see who the major health care users are, we will see were the funding is really needed and find ways to rectify these situations. Proper social housing can make a big difference in people’s health and lives. They should not have to wait 10 years to have a proper roof over their heads or food in there stomach. This “quiet crisis” should not remain quiet. We should all use our voices and educate others and together we can make a change. We can advocate on behalf of those who cannot. We need to act now as the waiting list will only get bigger and we may be the one’s on this list in the future.


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