Housing and affordable rent should be a human right says local professional
According to CMHC data, the vacancy rate for a two-bedroom apartment in the city was 2.7 percent last October. That number is 1.6 percent when looking for at least three bedrooms.
The numbers are slightly better when it comes to townhomes, although it’s still down. The vacancy rate increased from 11 percent in 2021 for a two-bedroom unit to 6.4 percent in October 2022.
Average rents continue to rise in the city with a two bedroom unit at around $950 and $981 a month for a two bedroom townhouse. Those numbers break the $1,000 mark for three or more bedrooms.
Why the higher rents? According to the CMHC report, this reflects higher net migration and student return to campus learning. Another factor was higher mortgage rates, which pushed up the already elevated cost of owning a home.
These increased costs and the “financialization” of living in Canada prompt Dr. Brenda Mishak of the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan in Prince Albert on the belief that a major change needs to take place.
“It’s like a hypermarket,” she said. “It’s seen more as an opportunity to make money than access to housing is a human right.”
Mishak has worked with the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan (MN-S) on a housing project to address homelessness in Métis communities.
She said when it comes to the issue of homelessness and home security, it’s not just homeless people who are struggling, but many, particularly seniors, who despite having their own home, no longer have the security they once had.
“They may have their own flat or space, but they are not physically secure,” she said, pointing to a recent attack on Northcote Manor. “They are not financially secure because everything goes to rent and they are not secure for medical needs, access and even groceries, there is no grocery store downtown anymore.”
When it comes to changing the housing and rental landscape, Mishak said all levels of government need to come together to seriously invest in a rights-based approach to housing. She referred to the National Housing Strategy Act, which was passed in June 2019.
However, the law is federal, meaning it does not apply to provincial, territorial, or municipal jurisdictions. There is also the question of how the courts will uphold this legislation and what changes exactly this will mean for funding or programs.
“I think through policies and programs we’re going to see a more rights-based approach,” said Mishak, who said rent protections should also be a priority for governments. She said “renovations” had increased as rental prices fell just before the pandemic began and many homeowners chose to renovate properties in hopes of getting more value from renters. However, that means the current tenants have been asked to make room for these renovations.
This type of evictions became very common in larger cities like Toronto and Montreal.
After all, professionals like Mishak believe that housing shouldn’t be a burden on anyone.
“It’s more than a roof over your head, it feels safe and secure in your own home,” she said.