By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The number of people waiting for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing in Durham dipped in 2018, but still remains nearly double from a decade ago.
The region recently released its early report regarding the RGI housing wait list and Durham Access to Social Housing (DASH), the system which residents apply for housing.
As of December 31, 2018, there were 6,555 low income applicants on the DASH wait list for an RGI unit, along with 80 applicants for modified units.
About five per cent, or 345, of those applications have special priority status under provincial legislation. These applicants are often victims of human trafficking or family violence, where the applicant intends to permanently separate from an abusive family member with whom they are residing.
Applicants with special priority are given first access to available units.
Of the 6,555 applicants on the wait-list, families represent the highest demographic at 2,789 or 42.6 per cent.
There are 1,883 single residents (28.7 per cent), 1,792 seniors (27.3 per cent) and 90 couples.
Families represent nearly 69 per cent of all special priority applicants.
While the wait list was down from 7,075 from the end of 2017, the 2018 levels were still about 500 higher than 2016 and 1,100 higher than 2014.
The list has grown by nearly 3,000 applicants since 2006, and nearly 2,000 applicants since 2012.
There were only 275 people taken off the waiting list in 2018, 58 per cent of whom were special priority applicants.
Another 38 per cent were seniors housed in predominantly seniors-mandated projects.
Only one non-senior applicant was housed last year without special priority status.
The region’s report notes the number of RGI applicants housed annually has been in “steady decline” since 2006.
2018’s total represents the lowest wait list turnover since 2006, when there were 578 applicants receiving housing.
About 71 per cent of those on the wait list are renters, while 21 per cent are considered to be living in “provisional accommodations” such as staying with a friend or family.
Only about 36 of those on the wait list are considered “unsheltered,” according to the region’s data.
According to the report, Oshawa represents the largest number of applicants on the wait list at 31 per cent, followed by residents of the City of Toronto at 20 per cent, and Whitby at 12.5 per cent.
About 75 per cent of families and single applicants rely on social assistance programs such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) as their primary source of income.
According to the report, 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.
Based on these costs, it is estimated low-income earners on the wait list would need to pay between 41 per cent and 73 per cent of their income to be able to afford market rent in Durham Region.
Non-special priority applicants can sometimes wait more than a decade to get into social housing, as the average wait times in 2018 were 6.4 years for seniors, 8.8 years for families, and 14.2 years for single applicants.
For those with special priority status, those numbers drop to four months, 1.3 years, and 2.9 years respectively.
Durham Region commissioner of social services Dr. Hugh Druoin wrote in the report that the wait list is only one factor when discussing affordable housing in Durham.