A portable housing benefit could ease our homeless crisis

March 20, 2017
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

From a Globe and Mail opinion piece: A frustratingly familiar challenge is playing out for Canadian families across the country. Overheated markets are pricing home ownership out of reach for too many. Limited vacancy rates are squeezing rental supply. And people who are struggling to find shelter say it's just too expensive. A common thread throughout all of these scenarios is cost. Affordability determines access. And one solution within our grasp is a national portable housing benefit.

More than 1.5 million Canadian households are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent – CMHC's standard for affordability. Over half of these households are in extreme core-housing need (living in poverty and spending more than 50 per cent of income on housing). Worse still, every night more than 35,000 Canadians will be homeless as part of the more than 235,000 Canadians who experience homelessness at some point every year. These are people who are sleeping in shelters, on the street, couch surfing, or waiting unnecessarily in hospital or other temporary accommodation.

Beyond the human toll, poverty and homelessness are a financial burden on all Canadians. A recent report funded by United Way Toronto & York Region found that in Toronto alone, poverty costs $5-billion annually. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, homelessness costs Canadians over $7-billion a year.

The good news is that poverty and homelessness are problems that can be solved. The federal government's commitment to a National Housing Strategy and the upcoming budget is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a significant new investment in affordable housing.

Over the past year, affordable housing advocates, national associations, researchers, foundations, municipalities, home builders and landlords have come together as a United Way-led National Housing Collaborative (NHC) to propose innovative, detailed and tangible steps the government can take.

With the budget just days away, there is a historic opportunity for the government to make immediate progress on one of the NHC’s key proposals: a commitment to a portable housing benefit. This benefit is a subsidy paid directly to tenants who cannot afford rent.

Read more: A portable housing benefit could ease our homeless crisis