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Meet Caroline: Be A Good Neighbour


1.      What supports already exist in relation to affordable housing for immigrants and refugees?

 

The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Community Housing Department as Service Manager for Community Housing in Leeds and Grenville, is responsible to provide and oversee subsidized housing units that are rent-geared-to-income and deliver Affordable Housing programs. Subsidized housing units are owned and operated by the Counties Community Housing Department and non-profit housing providers, and are located throughout Leeds and Grenville.

 

To be eligible to reside in a subsidized housing unit:

1.     At least one member of the household must be 16 years of age or older and able to live independently.

2.     Each member of the household must be a Canadian citizen or has made an application for status as a permanent resident under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) or has made a claim for refugee protection under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) and no removal order has become enforceable against any member of the household.

3.     No member of the household may owe money to any social housing provider in Ontario.  For any amounts owing, the member must pay the amount owed, or make a payment agreement with the provider to pay the outstanding arrears.  Arrears must be paid in full at the time of offer; otherwise, the offer will be considered a refusal.

4.     No member of the household has been convicted of misrepresenting their income for the purpose of receiving rent-geared-to-income assistance in the past two years.

5.     Household income does not exceed established limits.

6.     Household assets must be within the limit as per the Asset Limit Policy established by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.

 

Subsidized housing units are accessed by applying through the Social Housing Registry, which uses a chronological system to house applicants by the date of application. A Special Priority Placement (SPP) policy is in place for applicant’s that are victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, which may be abuse by a member of the applicant’s household, an intimate partner relationship, or abuse by a sponsor of a member of an immigrant household. SPP households are ranked higher on the centralized waiting list than households who are not in the SPP category.

 

In addition to subsidized housing units, there are a number of Affordable Housing programs delivered by the Counties, such as housing allowance, Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit, home ownership assistance, the Ontario Renovates, and funding for the construction of a secondary suite.

 

2.      What made you realize that immigrant and refugee housing was needed in Leeds and Grenville?

It was identified in the Housing Assessment Resource Tools (HART) data, which is based upon the 2021 Statistics Canada Census data, that new migrant households comprised a high percentage of households (16.00%) that were living in Core Housing Need (CHN) in Leeds and Grenville in 2021. Refugee claimants were also identified as a group in core housing need, comprising 6.25% overall. The population experiencing the greatest percentage of CHN in 2021 in Leeds and Grenville is black-led households (16.67%).

 

A household is considered to be in Core Housing Need (CHN) if its housing does not meet one or more of the adequacy, suitability or affordability standards, and it spends 30% or more of its before-tax income to pay the median shelter costs.

 

3.      Why do you think it’s important to ensure local immigrants and refugees have access to appropriate housing?

The vision for Canada’s National Housing Strategy is that “Canadians have housing that meets their needs and they can afford. Affordable housing is a cornerstone of sustainable, inclusive communities and a Canadian economy where we can prosper and thrive.” This vision statement is true for all of Canada, including Leeds and Grenville.

 

4.      What are some of the particular needs?

The Community Housing Department of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville does not have specific waitlist data for persons who are immigrants or refugees, however, Canada’s National Housing Strategy, A Place to Call Home, has identified that certain subgroups of the population are more likely to experience housing needs than others, and women within these subgroups are especially vulnerable. The following excerpt regarding needs, is from Canada’s National Housing Strategy, A Place to Call Home:

Immigrant women are at an increased risk of experiencing housing insecurity. In 2011, recent immigrant female lone parents were more likely to be in core housing need (50%) than their male counterparts (33%). Immigrant women often have no choice, or may perceive that they have no choice, but to continue living with their sponsor, who is often a partner or family member, in order to maintain their immigration status. This may serve as a barrier to leaving the household, whether it is abusive or otherwise. Studies also report that landlords are more likely to take advantage of immigrant and refugee women, many of whom experience cultural and racial discrimination from landlords and service providers.

 

 

5.      What ideas do you have to increase the availability of immigrant/refugee housing? 

 

New community-led affordable housing projects can and do start from grass-roots movements. Supports to increase the number of affordable housing units from the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville include the upcoming pilot program, the Leeds and Grenville Affordable Housing Development Lab, Affordable Housing Development workshops, and other housing development assistance for organizations is provided by the Affordable Housing Coordinator.

 

Canada’s National Housing Strategy (NHS) places significant emphasis on addressing the housing needs of populations with unique needs. These groups include racialized groups, including Black Canadians, recent immigrants, including refugees. Funding programs for new affordable housing construction, such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Affordable Housing Fund, prioritizes funding for housing supporting NHS priority populations. Local groups that are committed to creating more affordable housing locally can apply for government funds to help finance a housing construction project.

 

6.      What types of challenges do you foresee?

Building new affordable housing can be complex and challenging, but it is not impossible! It requires financial resources, and dedicated human resources to get a project started, which can be difficult for grass-roots or non-profit organizations. A community approach can work effectively in rural areas to develop new housing through the creation of partnerships.

 

7.      What role will community input and support play?

When new affordable housing is proposed or built in your neighborhood, that the community welcome the development and their new neighbors into the community. Say YIMBY – Yes In My Back Yard to new affordable housing development.

 

8.      Is there anything individuals/businesses/agencies/governments in our communities can do to assist/support access to suitable housing for immigrants and refugees?

To build new affordable housing it can take a community, to create a community; partnerships in Leeds and Grenville can be formed to support the development of new housing through donations or long-term affordable leases of land, resources, or financial support. Consider volunteering on a board if you have expertise to contribute towards the development of a new housing project.

 

Be good neighbor! If new housing is proposed to be developed in your neighborhood, have an open mind, and welcome the development of new affordable housing in our community to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

 

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