Housing and Shelter – Introduction

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The availability of affordable, safe and reliable housing and shelter in a community supports the health and well-being of its people. It is important to have a secure place to call home, where you build a collective history with others.

National Context:

Over the past 20 years, housing has become less affordable for Canadians as they devote a greater proportion of their net income to meet their housing needs. Despite increases in family incomes between 1994 and 2014, shelter costs in Canada rose by 6.3%.

Source: Canadian Index of Wellbeing National Report, 2016

Rating
Housing and Shelter

How Niagara is doing in the Housing and Shelter Sector in 2017:
3 – Of concern, requires attention

Amount of progress currently being made in the Housing and Shelter Sector in Niagara in 2017:
C – Some progress is being made

Happening Now

  • A Home for All’ Taskforce formed in 2015 to enact Niagara Region’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan. Focus areas include: Housing First; Prevention of homelessness; Housing Affordability Innovation; Service Hubs; and a No Wrong Door approach to service.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, average home listing prices in Niagara grew by 18% (over $52,000), with 3 local areas experiencing the strongest price growth: Port Colborne/Wainfleet (52%), Niagara Falls (30%), and Fort Erie (26%). For households seeking to own or rent a home, this erodes affordability. Required income for home ownership is increasing at a faster pace than earned income, and increased pressure is put on the already-limited supply of rental units.
  • In 2016 and 2017, Niagara Regional Housing (NRH) received over $23 million in federal-provincial funding to support initiatives such as social housing energy efficiency retrofits, construction of 125 new affordable housing units in Thorold, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, and support for low income homeowners with renovations to improve the health and safety of their homes.
  • In 2017, one hundred new Housing First subsidies with case management supports were established across the region; Niagara Region awarded continued and new funding to 50 homelessness programs and supports across the region; and the Hope Centre in Welland continued to develop as a hub of multiple services and support including homelessness prevention, shelter, mental health and addictions supports and a food bank.
  • In 2016, Niagara was one of 22 communities selected by the province to receive Survivors of Domestic Violence Portable Housing Benefit Pilot Program funds. Over 2 years, $652,476 of federal-provincial funding is being allocated to provide 50 qualifying households with a portable rent benefit to access accommodation that best meets their housing needs. As of March, 2018 this will continue as a permanent housing program delivered by the province with NRH participation.

What’s Emerging

  1. As of September 2017, there were more than 4,900 households waiting for Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing across Niagara, compared to 6,016 in 2013.
  2. The Indigenous Homeward Bound program being developed at both the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre and Niagara Regional Native Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a 4-year holistic job-readiness program that integrates supports such as safe, affordable housing, childcare, skills training and college education to help under-housed and homeless single mothers change their lives. Developed by WoodGreen Community Services in Toronto, the Homeward Bound model demonstrates an 80% participant success rate and a $4.00 return to society for every dollar invested in the program.
  3. In 2017, the RAFT partnered with the District School Board of Niagara to pilot the Upstream project, to prevent youth homelessness by reaching at-risk youth in school. Upstream is based on a successful Australian model that proves at-risk youth can be turned around if they are caught in time and referred to appropriate supports and services.
  4. The provincial government announced $5.4 million over 3 years of new ‘Home for Good’ funding in 2017, to bring 23 new and 40 community-based Supportive Housing units to Niagara.
  5. The HEART project articulates the views of homeless individuals in Niagara regarding the significant healthcare challenges they face around: access and discharge from hospitals; adequate and comprehensive psychiatric and mental health services across service providers; and availability and continuity of care from family doctors.
  6. Age-Friendly leaders are highlighting the socio-economic benefits of the shift toward alternative housing arrangements that offer affordability, accessibility and supportive services. This provides residents the opportunity to grow older in their home or community, and maintain their social connections and familiarity with their neighbourhood, its businesses and its services.

Suggested Action Steps

  • Pay attention to HEART project suggestions for patient-centered health system reforms that will impact homeless individuals in Niagara, by reducing barriers to access, strengthening systems of support, and creating the conditions for health equity.
  • Strengthen linkages through sharing of data and measurements between groups addressing aspects of complex issues of housing and homelessness in Niagara, including the A Home for All Task Force, the Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Charter Action Network, the Age-Friendly Niagara Network and the Coalition to End Violence Against Women.
  • Develop and understand return on investment in the housing and homelessness sector by weaving together information gathered through HIFIS and other system data. HIFIS (Homeless Individuals and Families Information System) was launched in 2017 as a data collection and case management tool for all providers of homelessness services in Niagara.
  • Identify creative opportunities to offer a spectrum of housing options, including incentives for developers to create these options.
  • Focus on reducing ongoing long wait lists for affordable housing in Niagara.

Indicators

Housing Availability

  • Housing Demand Trends
  • New Housing Starts
  • Vacancy Rates

Housing Affordability

  • Spending 30% of Income on Housing and Shelter
  • Average Market Rent
  • Average Monthly Rent Trends
  • Purchase Price of a Home in Niagara
  • Market Absorption Rate
  • New Housing Price Index

Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention

  • Wait Times and Availability of Affordable and Subsidized Housing in Niagara
  • Core Housing Needs
  • Homelessness and Use of Shelters
  • Housing Initiatives
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