One in three Mississauga households experience housing affordability issues — but not everyone knows about the prevalence of the issue.
“It’s not like somebody walking around with a bag on their head saying ‘I can’t live in a house,’” says Carolyn Parrish, Councillor for Mississauga’s Ward Five, Britannia Woods-Malton. “It’s something that’s quiet, it’s subtle. People are desperate and I don’t think we talk about it enough, and I don’t think we respond to it enough.”
Parrish is standing on a vacant lot at the corner of Merritt Avenue in Malton, Mississauga. The property looks effectively empty, save for the white tents and crowd of people gathered for the day’s event. Look a little closer, though, and you notice the wooden window frames, stacked under a blue tarp. Look closer, still, and you’ll notice the ground is gravel — poured on top of the soil after the environmental remediation that was necessary because of an oil tank leak below the ground.
Parrish was the one to negotiate the selling of the lot, where an old fire station once stood, to Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga, for a grand total of $2.00. Today is the groundbreaking ceremony; the day this corner lot officially turns into a build site, the future home of four to eight units of affordable housing.
It’s far from a solution to the entire city’s affordability crisis, but it’s a start — and Councillor Parrish is already planning her next steps. She wants to create a housing strategy for Malton to create affordable housing without driving residents to move out of the area. At the event, she’s also heard from neighbours down the street who own two houses and want to sell one of them to put in affordable housing.
In 2017, The City of Mississauga released its Making Room for the Middle housing strategy targeted towards middle-income earners. The report notes that although the Region of Peel is responsible for housing programs, certain regulatory aspects such as zoning and development application processing can be controlled by the city.
“We’re looking to build 35 per cent affordable housing, so rent geared to income,” explains Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, “whether it’s a rental, or for a purchase home in Mississauga in the future. We know that over a third of individuals spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, and that is deemed unaffordable.”
Giving middle-income earners the ability to own their own home means lower-income individuals can move into the stock of apartments which might be more affordable, says George Carlson, Mississauga Councillor for Ward 11, who sits on the city’s housing committee.
Affordable housing is something that deeply impacts the lives of people in our communities
When Carlson sees vacant properties, he promotes the fact that it could be sold cheaply to Habitat to build affordable housing units. He says when he mentions Habitat, everyone wants to be involved.
“Habitat is almost like a baby duck wearing a bow tie, everybody loves it,” he says.
Joining the group of Habitat volunteers, staff, local dignitaries, families and neighbours is MPP-elect for Mississauga-Malton, Deepak Anand. In an interview at the build site, Anand says he is looking forward to meeting with Habitat staff to form a continued partnership.
Building Hope, Building Homes
— Deepak Anand (@DeepakAnandMPP) June 22, 2018
“As a government, … we are committed for less red tape-ism. We are committed to work faster on these projects. And not just me. I can promise you this thing: everyone on our team would be working with you to bring that quality of living, that prosperity back to Ontario,” Anand says.
After the politicians and Habitat staff and board members speak, the crowd begins to thin out. The tents come down, and the shovels and hard hats used for the photo ops are packed away. But the window frames are still ready to go, stacked under tarp at the sides of the lot. Soon, construction crews and volunteer teams will be on site with shovels and hard hats, for real this time. They’ll be ready to transform it into a home for several families in Mississauga.
Chatting w/ Habitat for Humanity volunteers about how the #Malton Bristol-Law Project will transform the lives of families in need of a safe, affordable place to call home in #Mississauga. Thanks for inviting me to today's groundbreaking. I look forward to lending a helping hand. pic.twitter.com/G7fKJ1xTNO
— Bonnie Crombie 🇨🇦 (@BonnieCrombie) June 22, 2018
Mayor Bonnie Crombie mentions that the Region of Peel has almost 14,000 families on the subsidized housing waitlist.
“We need to bring that down,” she says, adding that other levels of government need to cooperate by providing the city with subsidies to purchase the units to help people on the waiting list.
Affordable housing is something that deeply impacts the lives of people in our communities. In their own ways, both the City of Mississauga and Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga are working to combat the affordable housing crisis.
But perhaps the most meaningful path forward comes, as the Merritt Avenue groundbreaking celebrated, when all levels of government and Habitat can come together. This continued partnership will benefit the thousands of local families who need a decent place to call home, both in the city of Mississauga and beyond. It’s a real solution to a real problem, and Habitat looks forward to continuing to work with local, regional, provincial and federal governments to see it come to fruition.