Affordable housing is a top concern for Canadians from coast to coast, according to a new survey conducted by Habitat for Humanity Canada.
The survey found that almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of Canadians feel housing in their area is unaffordable and a large majority (78 per cent) are also worried about having to spend less on food, savings, transportation and other payments to continue to afford their current housing — whether they are homeowners or renters. Spiralling inflation is exacerbating these concerns.
As Canada marked National Housing Day yesterday (Nov. 22), Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin (HMD) CEO Eden Grodzinski told BurlingtonToday affordable housing is a more pressing issue than ever.
"The situation is not a new one that we find ourselves in," Grodzinski said, adding that the crunch in affordable housing is affecting wider groups of people than in the past and is real concern for young people and families.
Habitat aims to help "individuals who are from lower income working families, who have good jobs but are struggling to find that entry into ownership because they may not have access to a down payment and the price point is just out of reach for them," she said.
"There are real struggles for young people right now. It's very hard even with a well- paying job, if you don't have the bank of Mom and Dad to help with that down payment to get your foothold in the marketplace."
Since 1999, 69 homes have been build in the area with the help of local volunteers towards this goal of increasing affordable housing, and Habitat HMD hopes to build 130 more new units between now and 2032.
"We are working with all levels of government on how to improve levers and reduce red tape so more affordable housing can be built," Grodzinski said.
Pressure on housing stock
With the federal government recently announcing a plan to accept 1.45 million immigrants over the next three years, the pressure on housing stock can be expected to rise
"We need to look at the way that we build," Grodzinski said, of meeting that pressure. "It's going to require different kinds of housing units, much more intensification, different kinds of living, looking at transit corridors and more infill.
"One of the challenges we have seen in recent years is that housing has turned into a commodity. People are buying properties but not necessarily living in them. We need to take a hard look at that and make sure housing is more than a commodity. It's a place somebody needs to live in order to be able to work and to send their kids to school."
Burlington and other parts of the GTA have felt these pressures for many years, she added. "In our area, in the West end of the Greater Toronto Area, we have been dealing with escalating prices, maybe a little faster than our neighbours across the province and country. So we feel it very acutely. It has been normal that we see $1 million homes here. That is nothing new for us in this community, but other rural communities are starting to near that and that is quite a shocking price tag for them.
"I think the pressures we see, are where people cannot afford to leave the home they are in, because what are they going to buy? Where is there vacancy, whether ownership or rental?
"We will always deal with things at a different level because a lot of the immigration comes into this area of Ontario. Because this is where a lot of the jobs are that people need to come into but I think that the pressures we have been feeling for a number of years are now being felt across the country."
According to the survey, Canadians want affordable housing prioritized — 75 prer cent believe more affordable housing could solve social issues the country is facing and 87 per cent say owning a home creates stability in life.
Grodzinski hopes this recognition of the affordable housing crisis will help spark action.
Tiny Homes project
Habitat HMD continues to try to be innovative. The charity started a Tiny Homes pilot project in 2022 which saw six small homes built with the participation of area high schools including MM Robinson and Notre Dame in Burlington and Milton and Georgetown District Secondary schools.
The homes were given to the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. Six more are expected to constructed over the course of this school year.
Grodzinski said people in the community can get involved in many ways. They can donate to help fund building programs. The organization is always looking for volunteers and goods can be donated to the charity's ReStore shop on Appleby Line.
"All of those acts help us fund our building program where we try and increase the number of units we can provide to working families," she said.
According to the Habitat survey almost one-third of Canadians (28 per cent) said they cannot afford a down payment of any amount on a home and 40 per cent are worried about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent over the next 23 months.
"It affects Canadians disproportionately, depending at what point they bought into the market and how much equity they have in their home," Grodzinski said of the burden of rising home costs. "It affects those who are newer to the market and just getting into it in a much more stressful way than those who have benefited from increases over years and have built up quite a bit of equity.
"We have to figure out some way to share the wealth a little bit."