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A roof over your head

cartoon_nov22016Housing is something that many of us in Oshawa take for granted. The idea that we can come home to a warm house with a fridge full of food is something that a lot of people see as every day life.

However, for many, it is not. And based on escalating rental prices in Oshawa, more and more people could be seeing this as their new reality.

According to a new study, Oshawa is now among the top 10 most expensive places to rent in the country. Looking for a one-bedroom apartment? Better be ready to spend $980 per month. Two bedrooms come in at $1,250 per month. The escalating rental prices come at a time when those looking to buy a home are also being forced to dig deeper into their savings and scrape off more of their paycheques.

The result of all of this is that more and more people are going to have to make a very tough decision: downgrade their prospects and live in a place that might not be the greatest, but at least fits in their budget, or they have to put more and more of their hard earned money towards paying the rent or making the next mortgage payment. And both of those scenarios are detrimental not just to residents’ pocketbooks, but also their health.

Several studies have shown links between good health and good housing conditions. A 2009 review of 45 different studies from 1887 to 2007 published in the American Journal of Public Health found positive health impacts typically came after housing improvements. UOIT’s Dr. Toba Bryant says poor housing conditions can lead to chronic respiratory problems and stomach and intestinal problems, and that paying a disproportionate amount of income on housing is not putting as much money towards having food in the house.

So what needs to be done? While the Region of Durham does have a housing program, it falls short of where it needs to be. Having to be on a waiting list for five years to get into affordable housing is simply not acceptable, especially for those with children, as every year in their development is vital.

During last year’s federal election, Justin Trudeau, then the leader of the country’s third party but soon-to-be prime minister, vowed that a national housing strategy would be created. One year later, and the first round of consultations are completed, with initial results expected this month. However, the federal government needs to come up with a practical and realistic approach to dealing with this problem as pie in the sky ideas will do nothing for those who have to make the decision between paying the rent on time or putting food in the fridge.