By Peter Criscione
Peel Region is a victim of its own success, suggests a report presented to council yesterday offering some explanation behind the municipality’s hefty wait list for social housing units.
“We (Peel) are always looked upon as being the highest in terms of the waiting list and I think it’s important to look at the reasons why that actually occurs,” said Mississauga Councillor Pat Mullin.
“Given the popularity of Peel Region as a place to live, given the population growth, there is insufficient availability.”
According to the report, Peel’s wait list for subsidized housing now stands at 11 years, down from the 21 years previously reported.
The drop is attributed to a recent change in how the municipality gauges wait times.
For years, the Region projected how long applicants might have to wait for a subsidized housing unit, which resulted in the 21-year wait list figure used for years.
No other municipal service manager in Ontario uses that method.
As such, Peel Region now reports only current wait times to enable more reliable comparisons with other service managers in Ontario.
Based on this new formula the current centralized wait list numbers for subsidized housing in the Region of Peel now stands at 12,853 households.
Depending on building choice, size, availability of unit and status, current wait times are at six to 11 years for families; nine years for singles; five to seven years for seniors; and one to three years for victims of family violence.
Recent efforts to streamline administrative processes internally account for the decline in the wait list in 2011 (from 15,341 in 2010).
Applicants are now required to confirm their interest annually for subsidized housing; some have experienced a change in their status, while others may have found alternate housing arrangements and have moved off the wait list.
In 2011, 848 households on the wait list were placed in subsidized housing units.
Although new reporting methods cast a different light on Peel’s situation, councillors yesterday acknowledged there is still a lot work to be done to bolster access.
“Thousands still need subsidy for affordable housing in Peel, so whether they’re waiting five or 10 years, any length of time is discouraging for people,” said Brampton Councillor Gael Miles, who is also vice-chair of human services.
Peel faces a number of challenges in the affordable housing sector, namely low unit turnover in subsidized housing, short supply of rental units, and population growth.
The report concludes that Peel’s desirability as a place to live, coupled with good quality units, is causing a strain on the social housing program.
“Quite frankly, there isn’t a lot of turn over because our units are well kept and are in need,” Mullin said. “I think those are extremely important factors that we need to focus on when we are dealing with the long waiting lists.”
Last year, Council approved $17.1 million in annual funding for housing, with the clear direction to reduce Peel’s centralized waiting list.
As a result of that, staff developed the Housing Investment Plan, 2011-2031, that proposes four strategic directions including increasing the number of rental assistance recipients, boosting rental housing supply and increasing access to homeownership.
As Council upholds housing as one of our top priorities, we support staff in their efforts to implement different strategies to help people off the wait list,” Miles said.
By Peter Criscione