The Canadian government defines Affordable Housing as shelter that costs less than 30% of a household’s income. In Cape Breton, over 50% of all renters are paying more than a third of their income to rent compared to only 40% for Canada. By contrast, only 13% of home owners in Cape Breton are paying more than 30% of their total income to shelter costs.
Other communities that have needed more affordable housing have come together and created creative housing solutions that have beautified neighbourhoods, enhanced community pride, increased property values and contributed to economic development.
The Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative (WHHI) was founded in 2000 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between three levels of government: Federal, Provincial and Municipal. Since its inception, WHHI has created 4192 affordable housing units through a variety of programs geared at supporting economic growth, employment and affordable housing. A combination of housing for low income families, seniors and first time home buyers has been developed through a variety of funding programs and community organizations. Innovative approaches including the renovation of older buildings and new builds have been employed. Further, they have seen the importance of revitalization for more than just housing – in 2005 work was undertaken to redevelop a heritage building in a run down area of town. This building now known as the Edge Artist Village houses workshop and studio space as well as gallery space for displaying art works.
In Saskatoon, a similar model of community and government partnerships has led to the successful development of affordable housing for groups in need. The Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership helps developers create business plans, connects organizations to resources, provides tools and resources for capacity building and provides a guidebook to affordable housing. Another group in Saskatoon, Quint Development Corporation, provides a variety of options for affordable housing. They offer long term affordable rentals, a youth lodge for young men, housing for women in crisis, and a coop model rent to own for low income families looking to purchase a home.
What is clear in each of these communities is that working partnerships, progressive housing policies, appropriate levels of funding, and resources and support to help guide organizations and individuals through the process of developing affordable housing are key to successful revitalization efforts. Each region focused on restoring old properties and building new. Each provides a variety of housing options to meet the needs a varied group of people – seniors, low income families, first time home buyers, and more. Taking this approach shows there is no standard cookie cutter solution to community revitalization and affordable housing. As a result, a variety of programs are needed.
The Affordable Housing Renovation Partnership is researching why there is an increased number of people in Cape Breton who are living in rental property and paying more than 30% of their income for shelter. Would people living those households choose, given the right circumstances, choose to own their own home? Sydney based consulting firm Harker Associates is undertaking this work as a part of a strategic review for the Affordable Housing Renovation Partnership. If you are living in rented accommodation, Harker Associates asks that you spend a minute completing the following short, anonymous survey.