So­cial hous­ing wait list swells

Ten-year plan to ad­dress hous­ing and home­less­ness in Strat­ford, St. Marys and Perth County up­dated

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - TERRY BRIDGE STAFF RE­PORTER

The wait list for so­cial hous­ing in Strat­ford and Perth County con­tin­ues to rise.

From 2014 to 2016, the list swelled from 175 to 227.

But a grow­ing num­ber of wait­list ap­pli­cants are find­ing hous­ing – 132 last year – and the pe­riod of time peo­ple are spend­ing on the list has shrunk.

“We have ac­tu­ally seen a de­crease in wait-list de­mand and the amount of time spent on the wait list for ac­cess from seven months to five months,” said Ca­role Des­meules, the city’s di­rec­tor of so­cial ser­vices.

As for de­mo­graph­ics, the num­ber of se­niors and sin­gle adults or cou­ples on the list has in­creased, but there are fewer fam­i­lies. Des­meules said all three trends were “not sur­pris­ing.”

The re­port on year three – 2016 – of a 10-year plan to ad­dress hous­ing and home­less­ness in Strat­ford, St. Marys and Perth County is in, and Des­meules went over some key points dur­ing this week’s so­cial ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee meet­ing.

From 2015 to 2016, Strat­ford’s va­cancy rate in­creased from 2.9 per cent to 3.3. It’s still a good sign.

“The va­cancy rate in Strat­ford is still re­ally low,” Des­meules said. “Three per cent is es­ti­mated to be a healthy va­cancy rate.”

The pro­vin­cial rate over that same pe­riod dropped to 2.1 per cent.

As for ren­tal rates, the av­er­age cost of a one-bed­room apart­ment in the city was $728. A two-bed­room unit av­er­aged out at $873 and a three-bed­room $1,010. Those price points were be­tween $267 and nearly $400 less than the pro­vin­cial av­er­age.

To af­ford those three lev­els of ac­com­mo­da­tion in the city, the av­er­age hourly wage – based on a 35-hour work week and about 33 per cent of gross in­come – was $17.32, $20.76 and $24.02, re­spec­tively.

Mean­while, the num­ber of nights spent in emer­gency hous­ing dropped from 2,340 to 1,637. The re­duc­tion saved over $55,000.

One of the plan’s fo­cal points is to be proac­tive and find per­ma­nent hous­ing for peo­ple in need.

“Rather than re­ac­tive to shel­ter and home­less­ness,” Des­meules said.

Pub­lic hous­ing evic­tions dropped from 15 to 10.

Sev­eral new af­ford­able ren­tal units have opened their doors. Two were cre­ated for res­i­dents with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and four for peo­ple with low to mod­er­ate in­come.

The dwellings were con­structed through $724,565 from the province un­der the So­cial In­fra­struc­ture Fund (SIF). The four prop­er­ties cre­ated for low- to mod­er­ate-in­come res­i­dents must re­main af­ford­able for at least 20 years.

SIF’s pro­gram on so­cial hous­ing im­prove­ment al­lo­cated nearly $900,000 for cap­i­tal re­pairs and qual­ity preser­va­tion of ex­ist­ing hous­ing. Ma­jor work was com­pleted on the Perth and Strat­ford Hous­ing Corp., ben­e­fit­ing 388 ten­ants.

Por­ta­ble hous­ing for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sur­vivors was also in­tro­duced. Eight fam­i­lies were housed through the ini­tia­tive in 2016; 12 are ex­pected to use the ser­vice this year.

Ad­di­tion­ally, nine peo­ple or fam­i­lies with low to mod­er­ate in­comes were able to pur­chase a res­i­dence through the af­ford­able home own­er­ship pro­gram.

As pre­vi­ously re­ported, a reg­istry week was held in April in con­junc­tion with the Cana­dian Al­liance to End Home­less­ness and the 20,000 Homes Cam­paign, which col­lected vi­tal data on home­less­ness in the county.

As for the 10-year plan, adopted by city coun­cil in the fall of 2013, it will be re­viewed at the mid­way point.

“Re­visit the num­bers and in­for­ma­tion pre­sented,” Des­meules said.

TERRY BRIDGE/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

An af­ter-hours emer­gency in­for­ma­tion sign is seen here at Strat­ford City Hall on Thurs­day. The num­ber of nights spent in emer­gency hous­ing dropped from 2,340 to 1,637 in 2016, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on year three of a 10-year plan to ad­dress hous­ing and home­less­ness in Strat­ford, St. Marys and Perth County.

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