By Barb McKay
Living conditions have a direct impact on the health of individuals, according to local advocates.
Bruce County Housing and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation held a community forum in Kincardine last Thursday to discuss housing issues in the county and commemorate National Housing Day.
Dozens of social service representatives,
This summer, Bruce County Housing unveiled its new 10-year long-term housing strategy, which aims to not only develop more affordable housing units, but work with the various levels of government to encourage investments in low income housing and remove some of the barriers that often discourage those types of developments. The plan also focuses on forming partnerships with organizations and agencies to connect people to services that will help them.
Susan Earle, manager of housing services for Bruce County Housing, said that since the original 10-year plan was established in 2010 a total of 122 affordable housing units have been created. The new plan maintains the target of 445 units over the next decade.
According to Bruce County Housing statistics, 870 households in the county earn an annual income of less than $12,000. More than 3,000 households bring in less than $24,000 annually. In addition, Earle said the county’s senior population is increasing and many are on fixed incomes. As of 2011, 20 per cent of the population was senior and that figure is expected to climb to 32 per cent by 2036. Earle said that will need to be taken into consideration as affordable housing is being developed to accommodate those needs.
There can be a number of reasons an individual or family requires affordable housing, Earle noted. Low incomes, part-time employment, single parenthood, disability or mental illness can all play a role.
Karen Croker, a public health nurse with the Grey Bruce Health Unit, explained that there is increasing evidence that inadequate housing and homelessness has dire physical and psychological consequences. She said that health units are now recognizing that access to health care and a living healthy lifestyle are only part of what affects a person’s overall health.
“Living conditions are a primary factor in determining our health,” she said.
Individuals who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or are living in unhealthy or unsafe conditions have higher rates of premature death, are hospitalized more frequently and visit the emergency room more often, putting a strain on the health care system.
In situations where poverty, mental illness and addiction lead to criminal activity, the costs associated with incarceration are high. Croker said a recent study determined that the cost to house a male inmate in
Funding affordable housing is significantly less costly that paying for the effects of homelessness and inadequate housing, Croker stressed. An analysis by Wellesley Institute found that on a monthly basis it costs more than $1,900 to maintain a shelter bed, more than $4,300 for a jail bed, nearly $11,000 for a hospital bed, but only $700 for a rent supplement.
Croker said the solution to tackling homelessness and helping those at risk of homelessness requires long-term intervention and many partners if it is to be successful.
David Brown, a local developer, expressed his interest in being involved.
“Hopefully some of us can use these statistics to build projects,” he said.
Kincardine realtor Charlene Randle-Clayton said that realtors could be strong advocates for the
Fellow realtor Russ Cultrup said
Earle said there is a program to assist people with utility costs, but acknowledged the fund is limited. She added that the county has committed $2 million to maintaining its 600 affordable housing units, but noted that at least $5 million worth of work needs to be done.
“We’re trying to do what we can with the funds that we have, but there is more to do,” she said.