Hous­ing short­fall for se­niors nears ‘per­fect storm’

Fed­er­a­tion of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties calls on Ot­tawa to in­vest in sup­port for ag­ing pop­u­la­tion

Toronto Star - - ELECTION 2015 - KRISTY KIRKUP THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OT­TAWA— The Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties (FCM) is send­ing an ur­gent mes­sage to fed­eral po­lit­i­cal par­ties to ad­dress hous­ing for se­niors in this fall’s elec­tion cam­paign as Canada ap­proaches “a per­fect storm.”

In find­ings re­leased Mon­day, the FCM doc­u­mented slump­ing in­comes among se­niors, ris­ing rent costs and an in­creas­ingly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion that it said will have a dev­as­tat­ing fi­nan­cial im­pact if the is­sue is not ad­dressed now.

Just last month, Sta­tis­tics Canada re­leased new pop­u­la­tion fig­ures show­ing Canada’s se­niors pop­u­la­tion has edged out the num­ber of chil­dren younger than 15.

The num­ber of se­niors is ex­pected to dou­ble to more than 10.4 mil­lion over the next 25 years, the fed­eral agency pre­dicts. Ed­mon­ton, for ex­am­ple, ex­pects res­i­dents older than 80 to in­crease 266 per cent be­tween 2006 and 2041.

“It is a very ur­gent mes­sage that any gov­ern­ment should prop­erly plan for the fu­ture,” said FCM pres­i­dent Ray­mond Louie. “In the next 20 years, we will have a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem if we don’t start ad­dress­ing it to­day.”

Louie said it makes eco­nomic sense to in­vest in sup­port­ing se­niors.

“The par­ties, all of them, need to pay more at­ten­tion into an in­vest­ment in hous­ing,” he said.

The FCM re­port in­di­cates Canada’s ag­ing pop­u­la­tion is chang­ing the face of com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try and close to 700,000 house­holds led by se­niors face a chal­lenge with hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity.

“A com­bi­na­tion of mod­est in­comes and high liv­ing costs mean that al­most one in four se­nior-led house­holds are spend­ing 30 per cent more of their in­come on shel­ter,” the re­port states.

The find­ings also de­tail how sig­nif­i­cant groups of se­niors re­main eco­nom­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble.

“Se­niors who live alone ex­pe­ri­ence poverty at nearly twice the rate of other se­niors,” it said.

The FCM says part of the is­sue’s so­lu­tion is to pro­vide hous­ing op­tions for se­niors by build­ing and ex­pand­ing ex­ist­ing pro­grams to con­front is­sues such as the grow­ing num­ber of se­niors on so­cial hous­ing wait lists.

It also rec­om­mends sup­port­ing and grow­ing mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral pro­grams that en­able se­niors to ren­o­vate their hous­ing to ac­com­mo­date chang­ing needs.

The FCM found hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity is par­tic­u­larly an is­sue in Canada’s largest cities, where there is a higher con­cen­tra­tion of poor house­holds led by se­niors.

Louie said mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties sim­ply do not have the ca­pac­ity to man­age a bal­loon­ing prob­lem.

“When peo­ple have no place to live, we end up hav­ing many more so­cial prob­lems,” he said.

Louie said the FCM’s re­port high­lights how the sit­u­a­tion will de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther with­out in­ter­ven­tion by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Fed­eral fund­ing pro­vided through the Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Corp. to the tune of $1.6 bil­lion a year will no longer be in place if fund­ing agree­ments are al­lowed to ex­pire, he added. “That’s why the FCM has been push­ing as hard as we can to high­light how im­por­tant it is that we con­tinue to have hous­ing fund­ing made avail­able, let alone ex­pand­ing it which is what we would like to see hap­pen,” he said.

“We know that the sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse, hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity in gen­eral is be­com­ing more and more chal­leng­ing.”

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