An affordable and stable home is a prerequisite for good health, the successful settlement of immigrant families and educational achievements. A lack of affordable and suitable housing is a considerable barrier for vulnerable populations, including seniors, Aboriginal people, lone-parent families and persons with disabilities.
Housing is also directly tied to economic growth and sustainability. Attracting skilled labour depends in large measure on the extent to which housing is affordable and accessible in a given community. The construction and repair of housing creates jobs and has important economic multipliers including links to the environment and energy sectors, the creation of green-focused jobs and, through tax measures, the provision of private sector incentives to develop much-needed rental housing.
In short, housing matters. Affordable and secure housing is the foundation of individual, community and Canada-wide health and prosperity. Yet Canada, a wealthy nation, is experiencing a housing crisis in housing affordability. Of the more than 13 million Canadian households, one out of every four live in unaffordable housing where they spend more than 30% of their total income on shelter. Many even spend more than 50% of their total income to pay the rent, placing them at a high risk of falling into homelessness and despair.
Struggling to stay housed leaves little or nothing for other aspects of life like education or skills development, family activities, saving for retirement and, for many, not even healthy food. It spawns a cycle of poverty that many do not break out of.
Living in poor quality, crowded housing, under stressed conditions is a contributing factor to health-related issues, leading to individuals becoming unemployable or, for some, shortening their lifespan. Mental illness and addiction is widespread among those living in poverty and many cope through substance abuse. Incidence of hospitalization, especially emergency room use, is high, as are the policing costs and incarceration rates.
At the extreme of unaffordable housing, many experience homelessness. On any given night 30,000 people experience homelessness in Canada and over the course of a year, up to 200,000 find themselves without a permanent house to which they can return to for shelter. Having secure housing is fundamental to a feeling of self-worth and, without it, a feeling of exclusion.
Affordable housing for Canada’s most vulnerable is the focus of CHRA’s Housing For All initiative.