THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay residents from all walks of life took part in Thunder Bay’s first National Housing Day Rally. They called on the Government of Canada to create a National Housing Strategy that provides sustained funding for existing and future social housing.
“Canada is the only G8 Country without a National Housing Strategy,” says Nicole Latour, Acting Executive Director of Alpha Court, and co-chair of the Housing and Homelessness Coalition. “A strategy is a key component to addressing the plight of homelessness. It ensures that the cost of housing does not prevent individuals and families from meeting other basic needs, including food, clothing and access to education.”
Thunder Bay’s Housing & Homelessness Coalition and Poverty Free Thunder Bay organized the rally because the city and region feels the impact of federal housing policy every day. At the regional level, the quality of housing and infrastructure in remote First Nations communities are deplorable and cannot keep up with the growing demand.
In Thunder Bay, there are approximately 1400 active households on the waitlist for social housing. At the same time, local non-profit housing and housing co-operatives, like Castlegreen Housing Co-operative, are facing the probability that their Federal Operating Agreements will expire with no talk of renewal. This may mean the end of Rent-Geared-to-Income housing assistance, putting low-income families, people with disabilities and urban Aboriginal people at risk.
From a homelessness perspective, there were 1158 unique shelter users at Shelter House in the 2013/14 fiscal year. More social housing is imperative to meet the needs of those individuals interested in Housing First type programs. That is where stable housing is combined with additional services and supports if desired. “There is a definite need for housing – right now,” says Wilfred Pott, community member. “It saved my life. I would probably never succeeded in my recovery without stable housing. And never be able to help people like I am now.”
Housing is a right. Thunder Bay needs more housing stock (units), and social housing is the best way to ensure the right to housing. It is non-profit, collectively owned and is funded directly by governments. This keeps rental housing from being effected by market forces, ensuring rents remain affordable for low and moderate income households. Provinces and municipalities are not able to assume the responsibility of housing alone. The Federal Government must fund the construction and maintenance of social housing units.