Housing and homelessness

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Is your income secure? Do you swipe your credit card at the supermarket without really looking at how much you’re spending? Can you pay all your bills every month? Can you afford your medication? Do your kids have the clothes, shoes and school supplies they need? Is your home safe and warm?
March 19, 2018 HALIFAX—The Nova Scotia Alternative Budget 2018, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia today, is a blueprint of a budget for the people. The report lays out a sustainable fiscal framework that supports the development of inclusive and prosperous communities, where we take care of each other and our environment.
Stable and affordable housing is a central component in improving people’s quality of life. In light of a severe housing shortage facing low-income renters, it is clear that Manitoba has work to do to ensure that all citizens have access to a warm and secure place to live. A successful housing model in Winnipeg deserves attention – it couples subsidized housing with social supports in order to help families to thrive.
In the context of a severe housing shortage fac­ing low-income renters in Winnipeg and across Canada, WestEnd Commons is an innovative pro­ject that includes a 26-unit social and affordable housing complex in a low-income neighbourhood in Winnipeg’s inner city. This three-year case study explores how WestEnd Commons has in­fluenced the lives of the residents, and what les­sons can be learned from this particular model.
Public housing plays an essential role in Manitoba’s housing system. It provides a specific form of housing: decommodified housing that is affordable to low-income households. This means that it has been removed from the market by focusing on its use as a home, rather than on its potential for financial gain, and has low rents. Across Canada, public housing has provided good quality, affordable housing for decades (Silver 2011).
Public housing plays an essential role in Manitoba’s housing system. It provides a specific form of housing: housing that has been removed from the market by focusing on its use as a home, rather than on its potential for financial gain, in order to make it affordable to low-income households. Across Canada, public housing has provided good quality, affordable housing for decades.
Consulting firm KPMG’s recommendations that Manitoba Housing units be sold and that the private sector play a greater role in providing housing for low-income people are profoundly mistaken. Far from being the solution to the problem of low-income housing, the private sector has most often been the problem. Equally problematic is KPMG’s recommendation that rents be raised for the lowest-income tenants, and that eligibility for the Rent Assist program that supports low-income renters be restricted, and that 42 positions at Manitoba Housing be cut.
Many Canadian cities are looking to regulate upstart online platform companies like Airbnb, which offer short-term rentals sometimes at the expense of long-term rental availability. The City of Toronto has weighed in with proposals to limit short-term rentals to primary residences, to charge short-term rental hosts and companies a fee, and more. Is Toronto going far enough? CCPA-Ontario Economist Zohra Jamasi surveys key North American cities’ attempt to regulate Airbnb and concludes Toronto could do more to protect the long-term rental stock.
Budget 2017 provides $150M less for the development and maintenance of social and affordable housing compared to last year’s budget. Groups like the Right to Housing Coalition are concerned that this will increase homelessness and perpetuate the poverty experienced by the thousands of Manitobans who cannot get ahead and enjoy a decent quality of life because they cannot access safe and affordable housing.
Manitobans should have access to housing but, at any given time, there are about 1,400 people experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg alone.  Many others live under threat of homelessness, paying the rent with money needed for food and other basic needs. Housing advocates call on the provincial government to remember these people when the budget is tabled Tuesday.

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