‘There’s just very limited stock available for renting’

While new houses are being built all across Haldimand County, it’s still a struggle for many to find an affordable place to live.

Mayor Ken Hewitt says that the issue is not unique to Haldimand.

“We have a housing crisis everywhere,” he said.

In Haldimand-Norfolk, 28.2 per cent of households are living in places that are in need of major repairs, are too expensive for their budget or are too small for the number of people in the household, said Tricia Givens, program manager of housing services for the Haldimand and Norfolk joint health and social services department. Provincially, that number is just over 33 per cent.

“You shouldn’t be spending more than 30 per cent of your income on housing,” she said.

For those who can’t afford one of the over 7,700 rental units in Haldimand-Norfolk, there is assistance available from social service agencies and the counties, but the system is far from perfect.

Between the two counties, there are only 826 rent-geared-to-income units. Haldimand’s share are mostly in Dunnville, with 101 family and 78 seniors or adults units. There are an additional five seniors units in Cayuga, 20 in Caledonia, 14 in Hagersville and five in Townsend.

And even if you qualify for one of these units, expect a long wait before you can move in.

The average wait time on the rent-geared-to-income list is anywhere from five to 10 years; even special priority households (such as those fleeing abuse or human trafficking) are waiting one to three years.

“There’s just very limited stock available for renting,” Givens said.

The health and social services department also offers up to $225 a month housing allowance for those needing assistance paying rent or utilities.

Builders can also receive some funding for new rental properties, provided that they agree to charge no more than 80 per cent of the average market rent in an agreed upon number of units for a period of 20 years.

Regardless of whether or not someone needs help to pay the rent, just finding an apartment is becoming increasingly difficult.

“There is a desperate need for additional rental housing in Haldimand and Norfolk,” Givens said.

While Hewitt agrees that the county has a part to play in working toward a solution, he believes that the provincial and federal governments should shoulder the bulk of the responsibility.

“The kind of funding that is required … really does require the provincial and federal government to play a role,” he said.

The lack of affordable housing is compounded by the lack of a healthy housing continuum that sees individuals and families cycle through different housing options as their needs change.

“Because it’s so difficult to purchase a home, people are staying in rental units, and it kind of pushes down the access,” said Givens. “It really is a difficult situation.”