Gig Economy and Precarious Housing

Alex Kotliarskyi

More and more Canadians are living lives that can best be described as uncertain. Working hard no longer guarantees financial stability and the opportunity to enjoy your retirement years. For many Canadians, job uncertainty is a constant threat to the well-being of their family. Why? Gig Economy is changing the nature of work for many Canadians, and there are no signs of it ending. In fact, the Gig Economy is growing. This puts more and more Canadians in precarious jobs, which can lead to financial instability and under threat of losing their homes.

Changing the Nature of Work

The Gig Economy we find ourselves in 2018 has changed the quality of work for many Canadians. The phrase Gig Economy came into existence at the height of the financial crisis of 2009. Individuals who were unemployed began working several part-time jobs wherever work was available.

Gig Workers are made up of individuals who work for themselves providing a service or labour to companies. Everyone “gigging” falls under the category of people Precariously Employed. By nature, these jobs lack security and stability, they pay less, and lack benefits and protections. Gig Workers in Canada are working in temporary positions, on-call, or are living off  involuntary part-time employment. Many Gig Workers need to take multiple jobs to make ends meet and in the last two decades, 50% of all jobs in Canada fall under the category of precarious employment. On average, Gig Workers earn about 58% as much as regular full-time employees (in the US).

Having Canadians fill these types of positions is beneficial to employers. Companies can argue they are more competitive and therefore more profitable. Unfortunately, people in this type of work suffer the consequences of working in a job that puts them at risk of poor health. The Precariously Employed are under constant threat of financial collapse and lack any form of protection under the Employment Standards Act.

New companies have been birthed during the rising Gig Economy. Uber and Airbnb were created out of the new nature of work, and people earn extra money by operating as a taxi service or motel outside of standard government regulations. These new enterprises are successful because of Canada’s new economic reality and the creation of “Gig Workers.”

Why is the Gig Economy on the Rise?

The Gig Economy will continue to rise. In a paper published in May 2018, by the Centre for International Governance and Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario highlighted 3 reasons that cause Canadians to experience a hazardous labour environment. First is the exponential increase in computing power; computers are faster and more efficient than humans. Second is artificial intelligence, which are machines that are programmed to think like humans. The final reason highlighted was robotics. Robots can perform repetitive and dangerous tasks. They don’t take breaks, lunch, or vacations. They will never fall ill and they’ll never form a collective bargaining unit.

There appears to be no end to the Gig Economy. The use of Temporary Help Agency Employment (THAE) has continued to rise in recent decades. Industry reviews in the temporary help sector show market value growing from $1.4 billion in 1993 to $5.6 billion in 2005; a 4-fold increase. The evidence clearly indicates precarious employment is on the rise.

Precarious Employment Leads to Precarious Housing

With the rise of Precarious Employment, more and more families will find themselves in Precarious Housing. These families live in apartments that are unaffordable, overcrowded, unsafe, in need of repairs, and at risk of eviction. The numbers break down as follows:

Unaffordable: 1 in 3

Overcrowded: 1 in 2

Unsafe: 1 in 4

In bad condition: 1 in 2

In need of repair: 1 in 4

At risk of eviction: 1 in 5

In Toronto, it’s easy to find individuals living on the streets, sleeping in parks, or in homeless shelters. Unfortunately, the problem of homelessness among families with children receives far less attention than it should. Habitat for Humanity recognizes this problem, but more than simply understanding the issue, we are doing something about it.

Habitat for Humanity: Changing the Rules

Every family needs to feel the strength, stability, and self-reliance that comes from owning a home. Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga recently launched their Deferred Homeownership Model (DHM) on the Crew-Goetz Landing Build Project, our biggest-ever build project, and another example of Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to provide a hand-up, not a hand-out.

Under the new DHM, complete ownership of the property by partner families is delayed 20 years. At the end of the 20-years, the family will be given the opportunity to apply the rent they have paid over that time period and take ownership of the home. Should the family decide to leave home before the 20-years is up, they are refunded the rent they have paid, and Habitat takes the house back to give to another family in need.

One of the key benefits of the DHM is the bypassing of condo fees, which can take away valuable funds from the family. Habitat provides ongoing maintenance and support (including financial literacy and coaching) to the family once in their affordable home.

Partner families can feel comfortable knowing the rent is geared to income. Once the partner family receives the title to the home, they can take pride in knowing their hard work helped pay for the property.

It was made possible for Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga to roll out this new model thanks to the support of the provincial government:

“Our government and Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga share a commitment to provide access to safe and affordable housing for our community. It’s one of our government’s top priorities. That’s why we are proudly supporting the biggest Habitat build in Burlington history with a $945,000 provincial investment. We know that, when families have access to affordable housing, their cost of living goes down and their quality of life increases.”

~ Eleanor McMahon, (former) Burlington MPP

There has been plenty of research into the benefits of affordable housing. When Canadians join forces with Habitat for Humanity, the cost of homelessness drops. We save $1,932 on shelter beds, $4,333 on provincial jails, $10,900 on hospital beds, $701 on rental supplements, and $199.92 on social housing. Ignoring the benefits of affordable housing and continuing to provide Band-Aid solutions is nothing short of foolish.

Conclusion

Every Canadian wants to save money and help at families at risk. Habitat’s Deferred Homeownership Model accomplishes both. The Gig Economy is here to stay, changing the rules along the way. Thankfully, the rules for homeownership are also changing. If you are the type of person interested in making a real difference your community, check out Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga’s website to learn more.

By: David Wright