Housing shortage creating dire straights for some

Bruce County, as with most places across Canada, is facing a housing shortage – attainable, affordable housing.

Rental housing in many communities is in extremely short supply, and what there is, is proving to be very expensive as rents escalate.

Rental housing (CMHC Rent Survey 2019) is considered affordable when the monthly rent is at or below $777 per month for a one-bedroom apartment unit, or $1,063 per month for a two-bedroom apartment or townhouse unit.  Today, two years after the survey, a one-bedroom in Saugeen Shores is more than $1,000 per month with with some starting at $1,490, a two-bedroom is at almost $1,700 and a three-bedroom is almost $2,000.  Is that affordable? Hardly. Unfortunately, also in Saugeen Shores, there is almost a rental monopoly by one company that operates most rental buildings.

Let’s suppose that a person earns $15/hr (now the minimum wage) and works a full 40-hour week earning, after tax, $1,776/month (approximate as it is probably less).  Now, suppose that same person is a single parent with one, or more children, where daycare now has to be factored in. Now, suppose it is a person who is called in to work for four hours a day intermittently, as many are, so that he/she has to work two or three jobs just to meet expenses.  According to housing guidelines, no one should have to spend more than 30 per cent on a roof over their heads.  $1,776 @ 30% = $536.80.

This example is not taking into consideration the seasonal worker or someone who works in the hospitality industry dependent primarily on summer tourism.

According to Bruce County Housing Registry the waitlist is now at 602 for rent-geared-to-income housing.  There are 190 families, 247 adults and 197 senior applications on the waitlist.  Between January 1st and September 30th of this year (2021) only 59 applicants have been housed with 24 of those in the third quarter in all of Bruce County.

Long-term care residences are not faring much better. At Brucelea Haven in Owen Sound there are currently 137 residents with a waitlist of 148, whiie at Gateway Haven in Wiarton there are 94 residents with a waitlist of 143.

To say housing is at a premium is putting it mildly and this is only looking at rental housing, to say nothing of the exorbitant cost of single-family dwellings.

Saugeen Shores Council is trying to get a handle on the housing shortage by trying to encourage developers to include attainable, affordable housing in new developments. While there seems to be some light on this horizon, if there are no rent controls put in place, will any units truly be affordable, or in today’s popular vernacular … attainable?