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