High housing costs and a limited supply of rental units are proving a double whammy in ensuring County residents have access to a stable, secure place to call home, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit said in advance of National Housing Day today.
The health unit is urging action about the lack of safe and affordable housing in the area, especially given its link to public health.
“Local residents are being asked to lobby all levels of government to build more affordable housing units. People are also encouraged to be open and welcoming to affordable housing developments and rental units being renovated or built in their neighbourhoods,” the health unit said in a Nov. 19 press release.
In addition to National Housing Day, the call comes in the wake of statistics released by the health until Tuesday.
They said the average local house cost is approximately $247,950 for a non-waterfront property, according to local realtors. They say this puts home ownership out of reach for many people.
Rent for a three-bedroom apartment is around $1,450 per month in Haliburton County – if you can find it. With a very low vacancy rate, there are not enough rental units to meet local demand (Source: 2019 Housing and Homelessness Assessment Report for Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County).
“Stable housing plays a key role in a person’s health, according to the Ontario Medical Association. A safe, secure place to live can help people gain employment, enjoy food security, and access social services and health care. Stable housing can also help people who are recovering from mental illness and addiction,” the health unit said.
It added, “These findings are worrisome because they highlight the lack of affordable housing in Haliburton County – both to buy and rent – and the toll it can take on people’s health,” says Mary Lou Mills, a public health nurse.
She said older adults are at higher risk of living in poor quality housing, as they are often on fixed incomes and have complex health needs.
“A stable living environment is so important for our health, because without it, we fall into a vicious cycle of problems,” Mills said. “If people do not have adequate housing, they are less likely to be able to find work and earn money. Without enough income, people cannot afford food and other necessities of life which are essential for personal wellbeing.”
The health unit estimates 17.2 per cent of County residents live in poverty (the poverty rate for children 17 years of age and younger is higher at 22.9 per cent). Often, social assistance, disability program, seniors’ fixed pensions, and low-paying jobs do not provide enough to meet the basic needs of housing and food, Mills said.
She said that to meet the basic needs for a family of two adults and two children, both parents must work full time and make a living wage of at least $19.42 per hour in the County. This living wage rate is based on calculations made by the health unit in 2018.