Habitat calls on voters to make housing a federal election issue

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Submitted by Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North

October 7 marked World Habitat Day, a day designated by the United Nations to reflect “on the basic right of all to adequate shelter”. As politicians continue knocking on doors, participating in debates and making promises to Canadians, Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North wants Canadians to support housing by asking politicians tough questions on how they plan to support access to decent and affordable housing for all.

With 1.7 million households across Canada in core housing need, too many people are living in overcrowded, unaffordable housing that is often in need of major repairs. In many areas of the country, rising prices in housing have resulted in homeownership being unattainable even with a substantial income. For many Canadians on lower incomes, the choices when it comes to housing are neither decent nor affordable.

“Every day, more and more families are caught in punishing cycles of unpredictable rent increases, overcrowded conditions, and a lack of affordable housing,” says Kimberley Woodcock, HFHOGN’s CEO. “Too many families live with a constant burden of uncertainty, stress and fear—especially their children. Housing is a basic human right, and every individual campaigning during this election should be able to answer how they will ensure everyone has access to decent and affordable housing.”

For many, renting is just as challenging as homeownership. Forty percent of Canadians are paying more than what is considered an affordable amount. Fifty percent of single-mother households are spending more than thirty percent of their income on housing. A lack of access to decent and affordable housing disproportionately affects some more than others, including single-mother households, seniors and Indigenous households. One in five Indigenous peoples lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs, and the number of senior households in core housing need rose by twenty-one percent from 2011 to 2016.

While the impacts of affordable homeownership are many, including reduced reliance on food banks, improved health for both children and parents, and better economic opportunities, to name a few, Habitat for Humanity also helps free up much-needed space on social housing wait lists by providing affordable homeownership opportunities. Before partnering with Habitat to become a homeowner, twenty-three percent of the homeowners who partnered with Habitat for the first time in 2018 were living in social or subsidized housing.

The Habitat for Humanity model of affordable homeownership bridges a gap for people who face barriers to homeownership and would not otherwise qualify for a traditional mortgage. Habitat homeowners volunteer up to 500 hours and pay an affordable mortgage geared to their income, helping them build a strong foundation and the financial stability to help plan for their children’s futures.

“There has been a lot of significant movement forward on ensuring increased access to more affordable housing, and it’s clear the housing crisis is recognized by all three levels of government,” says Woodcock. “For whoever wins this election, let us agree that we cannot afford to lose momentum now, and let’s bring our communities together in the fight to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for all.”

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1 Comment

  1. There are so many definitions for “affordable” housing that it’s pointless to write an intelligent article without defining your parameters. Is it 30% of your income on housing? Does it relate to the median income of the jurisdiction? Is it 10% below market (which is “affordable” to so few as to be ludicrous)? In Toronto, a household has to earn more than $52,000 to afford housing. What is the corresponding number in Muskoka?
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    Furthermore, if the definition and legislation regarding airb’n’b’s is not amended considerably, then our current unaffordable rents will continue to rise inexorably to the point when even the middle-class cannot afford them. Habitat’s system has always been the best one to increase housing stock at an “attainable” (my preferred classification). Unfortunately, you are fighting an uphill battle in this particular election against climate crisis; which nobody can argue deserves to be foremost.
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    And, as my previous comments were directed toward Habitat for Humanity (who, I understand, did not choose the accompanying photo); I wish to question the wisdom of depicting housing constructed from a cardboard box. I quite realize that there was no desire to be insensitive, but surely a photograph of a habitat home (we have several in town) would have been more appropriate.

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