Hous­ing mat­ter right to be a pri­or­ity

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NEWS - W. BRICE MCVICAR

A tiny, three- bed­room unit for $ 1,400 a month.

Five years ago that unit cost $ 800 a month.

That’s what Ray­chel Weese and her fam­ily are pay­ing for an apart­ment in the city. Weese talked about that rent ear­lier this month when she was at­tend­ing the City of Belleville’s levee to bring in 2019. The an­nual event fea­tured a lot of talk from the city’s new mayor and coun­cil­lors, but it was Weese’s small part in a re­cent story that should have set off alarms and bells for read­ers and for res­i­dents.

Rent in Belleville isn’t cheap. The cost of liv­ing keeps go­ing up and, sadly, area wages aren’t nec­es­sar­ily keep­ing up with the de­mands faced by res­i­dents — es­pe­cially fam­i­lies. How two peo­ple with min­i­mum wage jobs and kids man­age to keep a roof over their heads and their bel­lies full is a mys­tery.

Just look at Weese’s com­ments to get a sense of what it’s like.

“Rental costs have kind of sky­rock­eted,” she said. “We’re in a tiny three- bed­room right now and it’s cost­ing us $ 1,400 a month.”

If they want a yard or any­thing larger, it’s in the $ 1,600 range, she added.

“My hus­band’s con­stantly tak­ing ex­tra hours.

“Be­fore we moved we had two floors, three bed­rooms – re­ally good- sized bed­rooms – and one­and- a- half bath­rooms, and that cost us $ 1,000 three years ago.”

Their apart­ment- size clothes washer and dryer didn’t fit in their new place, so they now have to use laun­dro­mats, and they’ve en­dured frozen pipes and “all of Christ­mas with­out heat.”

In terms of value for money in the last few years, Weese said, “Ev­ery­thing’s down­graded ex­cept the money.”

That’s why it was heart­en­ing to hear Mayor Mitch Pan­ciuk and coun­cil an­nounce a hous­ing sum­mit will be tak­ing place in the city. The mayor, right­fully, re­ferred to the city’s short­age in af­ford­able hous­ing as a ‘ crit­i­cal’ is­sue which needs to be ad­dressed. He noted jobs need­ing to be filled can’t be filled when the peo­ple ap­ply­ing for them have nowhere to live. He’s right and, it should be added, no one’s go­ing to work for low pay­ing jobs when all of their in­come is go­ing to be used on hous­ing. There’s a ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween liv­ing and sur­viv­ing, and ev­ery­one de­serves to live in a man­ner which does not in­volve wor­ry­ing about their next meal or whether or not they can af­ford to turn their heat on.

It ap­pears the sum­mit will in­clude not just mem­bers of city coun­cil but lo­cal agen­cies and groups which have also been wav­ing the red flag over in­creased rents in the re­gion. Quinte Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion and Al­lTo­gether Af­ford­able Hous­ing have all in­di­cated par­tic­i­pa­tion in the talks, ap­par­ently. That’s vi­tal as the more voices which are added to the dis­cus­sion the more likely a vi­able so­lu­tion can be found.

As a so­ci­ety it only ben­e­fits all of us to en­sure no one’s strug­gling to keep their home, strug­gling to en­sure their kids have a bed to rest on and to make sure the peo­ple un­der that roof aren’t drain­ing their bank ac­count on hous­ing with noth­ing left to fill the fridge and cup­boards.

Coun­cil, right­fully, has in­di­cated this as a pri­or­ity is­sue and, hope­fully, it re­mains so un­til pos­i­tive changes are made in the city.

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