Skip to Content

Homelessness & Affordable Housing

 

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

Homelessness
Empirical evidence suggests that homelessness is a growing phenomenon in Canada. Its manifestation is most visible in metropolitan areas such as Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, etc. Homelessness is not restricted to these areas and, although less visible, homelessness is present in Upper Fraser Valley communities i.e. Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz-Harrison, and Hope.

Homelessness is a condition of disaffiliation and exclusion resulting in a loss of community and sense of self and drifting into social isolation. Individuals and families living homeless or on the brink of homelessness is a distressing social problem confronting Canadian society for the past decade or more and, the Upper Fraser Valley is not immune to this problem. For more information see the 2008 Upper Fraser Valley Homelessness report “We Need to Get Home”.

Housing Pressure
Across the communities of the Fraser Valley Regional District there is an acute need for affordable housing among a broad range of residents including single parents, seniors on fixed low income, persons in recovery, recent permanent residents and refugee claimants, homeless persons, individuals living with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities, and persons on income assistance, etc. Affordability must be addressed at the middle of the housing continuum to prevent homelessness. Long-term housing and stable rental tenancy must be the basis of a strategy to reduce homelessness and improve housing affordability. (Watch this page for a soon to be released report on the supply of and need for affordable (social) housing in the Fraser Valley).

Evidence gathered recently from communities in the Fraser Valley Regional District indicates that the biggest housing pressure is in two areas. Firstly, there is pressure in the area of long term and/or permanent supportive housing that includes social and health supports for people with persistent multiple barriers and for adults and youth who are transitioning to independent living. Secondly, there is also pressure in the area of affordable housing options, both rental and ownership, for working families, single parent families and seniors who can live independently and who are able to pay not more than 30% of gross income on housing.

Policy Response
Over the past decade the policy response in Canada has more often than not revolved around steering homeless people toward shelters that for the most part are overcrowded and unhealthy. The emphasis on emergency shelters, although important, should be put into perspective as it is a symptomatic measure that does not address the causes of the problem. It is an approach that focuses on feeding, clothing, and providing a place to sleep with too little emphasis on initiatives or programs that are preventative or remedial in order to "turn the tide" of homelessness. It is furthermore based on a piecemeal funding approach that is not financially prudent and undermines the effectiveness and sustainability of promising, creative and innovative programs created locally through partnerships. Partnerships inclusive of local governments, nor-for-profit enterprises and for-profit enterprises designed to provide affordable, supportive and long-term housing options to low-income and/or multi-barriered persons and families.

To effectively address the problem of homelessness will require a long term commitment and willingness to make major changes in housing, welfare support and social development strategies. Such a commitment should be informed by the existing continuum of typologies of responsiveness to homelessness, from homelessness prevention to emergency shelter to supportive housing to independent housing.

What is needed instead is a national housing strategy that includes policies on infrastructure investment that protect and maintain existing rental stock, provide incentives to invest in affordable housing, including rental units, and support a vigorous renewal of co-operative and other social housing programs. Canada is the only G8 country without such a national housing strategy. A national housing strategy can play an important role in stimulating local and regional economies, provide jobs and improve local tax bases.

Much work remains to be done. Reducing homelessness and providing affordable (social) housing should remain within our collective community conscience as something that needs ongoing attention and resourcing in the interest of safe, healthy and vibrant communities.

For more information on MCC BC’s work on Homelessness and Affordable Housing contact the Director of Programs at 604-850-6639 or program@mccbc.com