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Housing issues need attention

(Cartoon by George Longley)

The average selling price for a house in Durham in June was $620,256.

Despite the subjective “affordability” that Durham offers in comparison to other regions in the GTA, the majority of residents cannot afford these prices.

For those who cannot afford to buy, they are often forced to rent at rates that are even higher than what they would pay for a monthly mortgage.

According to a housing report released by the region last month, average market rent in Durham is $1,153 for a one-bedroom, $1,242 for a two-bedroom and $1,380 for a three-bedroom.

Depending on one’s salary, this may be manageable.

But for low-to-middle income earners, Durham Region is quickly becoming an unaffordable market.

This is where rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing becomes another option.

While some may question the merits of publicly-supported RGI or “social” housing, there is an alarming trend that many municipalities, including Durham, are facing in this sector.

The wait list for social housing in Durham has grown by almost 3,000 applicants since 2006, peaking at 7,075 in 2017, before decreasing to 6,555 in 2018.

Despite the decrease last year, it is still nearly double of what it was 13 years ago.

In that same time, the number of people who are able to move into RGI units has been cut in half.

A few years ago, the province implemented regulations that give special priority to social housing applicants who are victims of human trafficking or escaping an abusive relationship.

While this is a positive step, this has left other applicants without special priority to sit in what can only be described as “wait list purgatory.”

According to the regional report, only one non-senior RGI applicant who didn’t have special priority status was housed in 2018.

The waiting period for non-priority single applicants is approximately 14 years.

With numbers like this, the region, province and federal government need to stop pointing fingers at each other, and make a decision – either they are in the social housing game, or not.

There is no possible way to house more than 6,000 people in a year, but with many politicians using “affordable housing” as a talking point these days, perhaps those words can turn into even just a little bit of action.