Eight new affordable housing units for single mothers experiencing chronic homelessness will soon be built on Block Line Road in Kitchener.
The project, led by YW Kitchener-Waterloo, is also funded by the District of Waterloo and capital funding has been provided by the Mortgage and Housing Corporation of Canada (CMHC) Rapid Housing Initiative.
Elizabeth Clark, CEO of YW Kitchener-Waterloo who is also a regional council member, said YW initially acquired property from the city to develop affordable housing in 2021.
The organization used that land to begin plans to develop 41 units for chronically homeless women. When these plans were completed, they were left with a small triangle of property. Clark says YW saw an opportunity to build affordable housing, this time for homeless women with children.
The remaining property was large enough for eight two-bedroom units, but Clark says she hopes the organization can build more in the future.
“Right now we have about 1,800 families facing eviction,” he said. Clark says, adding that the increase in the number of people facing eviction in the Waterloo area has risen by nearly 400 percent during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, the Ontario government suspended all evictions. Now that the eviction freeze is over, Clark says there is a “really huge backlog” of eviction notices.
Some families have already been evacuated but have been put into motels with the help of YW.
Housing prices are rising in the area
The Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors reported that in December in the Waterloo area, the median price for a detached home was $1,021,353.
Many say the rapid increase in home prices in the Waterloo area has made home ownership out of reach.
The end of the year saw the median price of a detached home in Kitchener-Waterloo soar to more than $1 million.
The average price for a condo-style apartment was just over half a million.
This makes some people out of the market. In November, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo spoke to Lavorine Brian, who has rented her place in Kitchener. She said she thought about home ownership.
“I hear the pros and cons of it,” she said. “They say you pay more in the mortgage than you pay in the rent.”
Atiq-ur-Rahman bought a house in Waterloo before prices started rising.
“I got lucky,” he said. “I bought a house just before the crazy boom. The value of my house more than doubled and this is the only way I’ve been able to buy my current home. Otherwise, there’s no chance.”
The need for affordable housing
There were 1,085 people experiencing homelessness in September when the district’s last census was taken. A large proportion – about 412 people – lived in harsh conditions, including in camps.
People in the community have spoken of the need for more affordable housing in the Waterloo area.
In November, advocates sounded the alarm about the housing situation after police, local law officers and a bulldozer cleared a homeless camp on Charles Street East and Stirling Avenue S.
Dozens gathered at the camp site to protest the eviction. With many calling for more durable solutions, such as regional funding for services covering mental health, addiction and housing.
Some people urged the regional council to transfer money from police to housing during regional budget deliberations.
Suhanya Ketheeswaran from Cambridge said at a meeting on December 8 that funding should be increased to support affordable housing, homelessness, unemployment and mental health.
“I don’t know how our public money has been invested so heavily in policing at the expense of more effective crime prevention strategies and building safe, healthy and prosperous societies,” she said.
Who gets YW housing?
Clark says YW will work with Lutherwood, a not-for-profit health and social services organization, to identify eight single mothers who will move into the units. Families will be selected from one of two waiting lists: families in transition and the HOC.
Clark says YW will consider families with higher needs for support and families who tend to have more YW services.
Right now, Clark says there are about a dozen families in need, but she expects that number to rise as evictions increase.