Mar 27, 2019
Low-income individuals and families in Frontenac County are having ongoing challenges to find suitable housing. These people are at increased risk of becoming homeless. The Housing and Homelessness Collaborative serving Frontenac County is encouraging local residents to be part of the solution, by thinking creatively about how they can increase the number of rentals available.
Frontenac County has a higher percentage of home ownership compared to rentals, and very few purpose-built rental properties, i.e. apartments, when compared to urban centres, like Kingston. Rents have increased across Ontario (by an average of 24% between 2005 and 2015) and the number of units provincially has also dropped. By comparison, employment income and social assistance only grew 13-15% in that same period.
When you add on increasing costs of utilities such as hydro, it is becoming very difficult to afford to own a home or to rent one, if you can find one. “When you add in other barriers, like limited employment opportunities, lack of access to transportation, and an aging population relying on pensions, it’s no wonder that we are seeing more people who are on the verge of or are experiencing homelessness,” says David Townsend, Executive Director at Southern Frontenac Community Services. SFCSC is one of three agencies that works together in the collaborative, the others being Rural Frontenac Community Services and Addictions and Mental Health-KFLA.
According to the 2018 homelessness enumeration count, over 60 individuals representing 37 households in Frontenac County considered themselves homeless, which includes more than a dozen children. The Homelessness Prevention Workers typically help about 300 individuals each year who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Homelessness Prevention Workers who serve Frontenac County are working with people of all ages, from youth to seniors, and are seeing an increase in the number of people self-reporting as homeless. That could mean they are sleeping in their car, on a friend’s couch, or lack the necessities of life such as heat or running water.
Workers use a Housing First model, where the top priority is to get people rapidly housed, and then to build supports around them to help them become stably housed. They work with landlords to ensure a good match, and can provide up to 12 months of intensive support to the client to help them remain housed.
“Unfortunately, our housing staff are having difficulty even achieving that first important step in Housing First of getting people housed – because rentals are so few in the County. Housing is very hard to find, especially in the more rural areas, and often not accessible or affordable,” adds Louise Moody, Executive Director at Rural Frontenac Community Services. “As a community, we need to think about how each of us can be a part of the solution.”
The Collaborative is encouraging residents in Frontenac County to consider how they can create “housing stock” – namely, more, affordable rental units. Here are three ideas:
Rent a room. There are many big old country homes in Frontenac County, and as family sizes decrease, especially as our rural population ages, the costs of owning these homes becomes more challenging. A homeowner can become a landlord and rent a room at an affordable rate. The landlord earns income from the rental, which in turn, helps them reduces their costs of home ownership.
Do a home share. Seniors in particular may feel isolated if they live in homes far from village centres, and as they age, seniors may become less functional. A home share is a concept where you rent a space in the house (room) for a highly affordable rent, with an agreement that the renter helps with household tasks, which could include cleaning, cooking, shopping, home maintenance, yard work, and so on. This provides an affordable rent, some income, a helping hand, and safety and security
Build or buy a tiny home. If you have property that will allow it, you can place a tiny home on it if you live in Central and North Frontenac Townships. Both townships have recently completed updates to their Official Community Plans and will allow tiny homes to be placed on properties that meet certain conditions. An advantage of this, along with earning extra income, is that there is greater privacy.
The Collaborative has set up a “Housing Now” a webpage to help Frontenac County residents learn more: www.sfcsc.ca/housingnow . It gives an overview of the issues and some background on some of these three housing ideas, as well as resources and links. For example, you can download a copy of a standard lease, or read about how other communities are working to resolve affordable housing challenges, like the Places 4 People project in Haliburton. The site also has links to local government (planning offices, etc.). Be sure to contact your local government to check regulations in your area.
Creative ways to increase affordable rental housing work. Here is one success story, from the perspective of both the tenant, and the landlord:
“I was a resident of South Frontenac for the majority of my life. Last year I was faced with a difficult situation, I was forced to flee my home. I had to live in my car, sleeping in local parks. I was connected to a Homelessness Prevention Worker, she found me affordable housing in Mountain Grove and matched me with landlords that not only were understanding of my situation but also became my friends. I now live in a small one bedroom house on my landlord’s property”.
~ Central Frontenac tenant
“We built a small one bedroom house for our aging parents, we had the space on our property. It was important for us to keep our independence and for them to have theirs. After the passing of our parents, we decided to turn it into a rental. Not only did it fill a need within our community but it also subsidized our living costs by providing us with an extra income. We were connected to a Homelessness Prevention Worker. They listened to our needs and matched us with a tenant that fit. In no way did we feel pressured to rent to someone we weren’t comfortable with. The tenant has worked out really well and she is still supported by SFCSC. We feel comfortable to reach out to SFCSC for support if needed; however, things are working out pretty well.”
~Central Frontenac landlord
To find out more, start by visiting the “Housing Now” website: www.sfcsc.ca/housingnow