All eyes will be on Sault Ste Marie on Tuesday as the Ontario government launches the first regional meeting of its long-promised province-wide consultation for a comprehensive new affordable housing plan. The Housing Network of Ontario is working with Soo-based housing and homelessness advocates to ensure that the initial meeting focuses on the real housing needs of the people of Sault Ste Marie and the real housing solutions. For more information on the Housing Network of Ontario, and the provincial consultations, click here.
“The best and most effective provincial affordable housing plan is built from the community up,” says Michael Shapcott, of the Wellesley Institute, co-chair of the HNO. “The Sault Ste Marie rental market report, released last week, shows rents rising faster than inflation, and the number of vacant units dropping. The Sault has lost more than 100 single occupancy rooms in the past two years – the only housing that is truly affordable to low-income single people. Meanwhile, there are 1,051 households on the local affordable housing waiting list, an increase every month since the start of the year. While specific conditions are different in every part of Ontario, the affordable housing disaster in the Soo looks a lot like the crisis facing low, moderate and middle-income households across Ontario: Lack of adequate supply, unaffordable rents, urgent need for programs and services.”
“There’s plenty of bad news when it comes to affordable housing, but the good news is that there are practical and effective strategies,” says Yutaka Dirks, of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, co-chair of the HNO. “The Housing Network of Ontario’s housing declaration sets out four key priorities and has been endorsed by 75 provincial and local organizations and 170 individuals since it was launched one week ago. Our partners at the provincial and local levels have plenty of practical and pragmatic housing solutions that include changes to existing laws and regulations to create and maintain affordable homes, and new funding for new homes and for a universal housing benefit, plus programs and services aimed at the high cost of energy, along with the urgent need to prevent the tens of thousands of economic evictions across Ontario annually.”
“Sault Ste Marie is in the grips of a full-fledged housing disaster,” says Paul Frolich, a Sault-based housing advocate. “We have plenty of local housing solutions, including repairing and rehabilitating run-down buildings, but we need the province to become a full partner. The Cavalry Christian Centre one of our local SOR providers is teetering on the brink of closure, which means the loss of another 23 desperately-needed rooms. We cannot wait two years for a complete and detailed provincial plan. We need some practical support today that can be used as the foundation for a provincial plan.”