The need for affordable housing in the GTA is growing, but what is affordable housing, and why is it so important?
Everyone has the right to safe and stable housing — after all, it is one of the basic necessities of life. As a community, we must work together to provide affordable housing in the GTA for those who are struggling to get a hand up into the housing market.
Over five million Canadians are considered to be low-income earners across the nation. Here at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin, our mission is to build affordable housing units for hard-working, low-income families in need. These families are unable to afford real estate prices in the housing market, especially in this day and age.
We don’t give out our homes for free — we require our partner families to volunteer 500 hours of sweat equity during the construction process, and pay back a mortgage tailored to no more than 30 percent of their overall income. In this way, we give families a hand up, not a handout.
Habitat also builds strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter for our partner families.
What is affordable housing?
According to the Halton Region, the definition of affordable housing is “housing with a market price (for purchase) or rent that is affordable to households of low and moderate-income, spending no more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing, without government assistance.” But there is so much more to it. Affordable housing not only fulfils the basic necessity of shelter but contributes to the economic vitality of communities.
The more a community flourishes financially, the more employees it will attract to the area. Employers will see this to be an advantage for their businesses and this will enable the local workforce to be closer to their jobs, which will reduce the amount it takes to commute every day.
Affordable housing does not only come in standard, two-storey houses but can range from market-rate duplexes to developments for seniors. Habitat is looking to expand our current home build projects onto a larger scale and we have modified what our definition of family is so that we can serve more people in our community.
The importance of affordable housing
To have a safe and decent home is something every family deserves. Affordable housing comes with innumerable benefits for these families. Health-wise, it reduces the stress that is associated with the debt that comes with houses that are above the family’s income.
As stated by Housing Virginia, there is also a lesser chance of contracting an infectious disease or breathing in toxins into their system by living in safe and decent housing conditions. Additionally, affordable housing makes room for families to spend more of their budget on health-care and food.
Families with children have their well-being improved by living in safe and decent housing conditions. They receive better nutrition, exceed in their school education, and their overall mental and physical health is improved as well.
According to a 2015 study from the Boston Consulting Group, families who partnered up with Habitat to build their new home reported that their general well-being had increased and they became more active members of their community. There was also a better outlook for education, with the dropout rate being lower in partner families compared to “control” families (families who are not partnered with Habitat).
Affordable housing by the numbers
In Canada, housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30 percent of a household’s before-tax income. Although housing prices in the GTA have slowed down somewhat in the past year, with the median price of a two-storey home now being $955,395, families who earn low-income wages are unable to afford these high-cost houses.
The average low-income family earns $38,754 each year, which is almost 30 times less than the median price of a two-storey home. Many low-income families then decide to rent a property, but this can be costly due to paying rent every month. In various situations, the landlord may suddenly choose to raise rent prices. Families with accessibility needs may also have difficulty renting properties because many are not designed to be accessible and can not be modified to meet their needs.
There is a high demand for affordable housing across the GTA and the wait time for these housing units is quite lengthy. As reported by Evergreen, more than 117,920 households in the GTA were on the waiting list in 2014 for social housing and the average wait time was 5.1 years, which has undoubtedly increased since then.
How you can help
Since Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization, we rely heavily on the donations that we receive from our donors to build the houses and there are many ways you can help Habitat achieve our mission. You can contribute a one-time or monthly donation online and you will receive an emailed charitable receipt once you do so. We’re proud to say that 100 percent of all monetary donations will go towards our home building projects. For every $1 donation that Habitat collects, we will produce $4 that will benefit society.
You can volunteer your time at one of our three ReStore locations where there are various volunteer positions you can choose from. You can also come down to our ReVive centre if you want to flex your creative muscles or volunteer at our build sites if you want to be at the heart of the organization. Check out our volunteer page to learn more.
Last but not least, if you donate any unwanted furniture or appliances to our ReStores, we will resell them at 30 percent to 70 percent less of the original price. The donations we acquire allow us to have more stock at our ReStores to resell back to the public and the money we receive from reselling goes directly to the funding of our build projects.
When you donate to Habitat, you are giving to a charity that is dedicated to achieving its vision of a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. For more information on how you can get involved, click here.
By Jasminder Khehra
Updated: July 2, 2021