With housing costs increasing and retirement home costs rising as well, it is becoming a challenge to find decent housing for seniors in the GTA. Obviously, part of the solution involves creating a stock of affordable housing units targeted for seniors — and this is something that we’re working on here at Habitat Halton-Mississauga. But something else we’re working on is a program designed to keep seniors in their homes for longer periods of time, therefore expanding the stock of quality housing deemed affordable for seniors and, ultimately, all members of our community.
The need for safe, decent and affordable housing for seniors in the GTA
The population of seniors in Ontario grew by 67, 857 people from 2011 to 2016, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2018 Seniors’ Housing Report. In 2016, there was a total of 695, 863 seniors living in Ontario. Seniors are expected to account for one in four Canadians by 2036, according to the “Seniors and Housing: The Challenge Ahead” report from the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD).
Despite this increase, the number of people living in residences for seniors and facilities that are a mix of a nursing home and residence for seniors dropped from 2011 to 2016 by 2,630 people. So, we must ask: why are less seniors deciding to live in facilities designed for their well being?
One possible factor is the high rent prices for units in those facilities. The average rent for a one bedroom seniors unit in Halton in 2018 is $4,917 and $3,912 in Peel. For a two-bedroom unit, these numbers increase to $6,379 and $5,199 for Halton and Peel, respectively.
For contrast, the average rent price for an apartment in Toronto is over $2,000. Thus, as the CCSD report notes, seniors housing can be 2.5 times the cost of rent in the private market, so seniors residences are not always a viable option.
It is worth noting as well that some of these rent costs might not include three meals a day or transportation services, meaning there are additional costs on top of the rent. Almost one in two senior-led households that rent their property experience affordability issues, according to the CCSD report.
The report also notes that many seniors want to remain in their communities as they grow older. This, coupled with the high rent costs, might deter seniors from purchasing new units in seniors facilities and retirement homes which are not affordable for them. However, staying in their own homes means living in a place which is potentially ill-suited to their accessibility and mobility needs.
Introducing the Handyman program
Habitat has a vision to create a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. At Habitat Halton-Mississauga, we’ve sought to diversify our image of a “family” so that we can help even more people in our community. We know the need for affordable housing is widespread, so we are committed to widening our programming and available services so that we can serve more people in need.
We also know that, as the statistics above outline, there is an increased need for affordable housing for seniors in our province. Because of what we know about the housing market for seniors in our communities, we have sought to find innovative solutions.
Our Handyman Program, inspired by a program first piloted in Winnipeg, Man., will offer home improvement services to individuals in the communities of Halton and Mississauga. These services include general carpentry, cabinet removal and installation, kitchen repair and renovation, bathroom repair and renovation, drywall installation and repairs, interior and exterior painting, installation and checking attic insulation, vinyl siding installation and repair, exterior pressure washing, deck repair and maintenance, fencing, gutter cleaning and seasonable home maintenance. We may also offer additional services on a case-by-case basis.
Carpentry work will be done by a licensed red seal carpenter who will lead two volunteers with experience in carpentry. Using volunteers helps us keep our costs low. Any specialty services such as roofing, electrical and plumbing work will be completed by a trusted partner contractor with lots of experience in the field.
Handyman will work in a similar way to our family services applications, in which people looking for work to be done in their home can submit an application to us and we will schedule a time for our team of trained volunteers and staff to begin work on the home. Although we will charge for the services, we will also offer a low-income stream so that all individuals and families in need can access the services that Handyman will provide. We will have an online application process for Handyman, as well as opportunities to make home improvement requests via phone or through a paper copy of the application.
As previously mentioned, although our Handyman program will assist all members of our community it is especially targeted towards seniors and low-income families who may not be able to do some of the home improvement work on their own. We will offer services such as retrofitting homes for accessibility, so that seniors can live in their home for longer instead of being faced with an immediate need to move out of their home and find an accessible place to live in an assisted care facility or long-term care home.
By doing this, we will increase the stock of affordable housing for seniors in our community, since their homes will be better suited for their needs. This will ensure seniors don’t have to make the decision between moving out of their home to a safe residence which is extremely costly, and staying at home, where they can afford to live but where there are potential dangers due to their home’s potential lack of accessibility features.
We’re excited about our Handyman program not just because it will allow us to service more families in our community, but also because it will help us generate additional revenue for our home building projects. We will charge a modest hourly rate for services, we will be able to cover the program’s administrative costs such as travel, and raise more money for our home building projects.
After a short pilot, Handyman will be opened up for public scheduling. Keep your eyes peeled to our website and social media pages for more information about how you can get involved with Handyman.