Why We Fight for Housing

Illustration by Colin Wigle.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of the Ontario Government’s roundtable on Food Security. What struck me during this discussion (besides the lack of people in the room having experienced food insecurity) is the multitude of ways that we have responded to the food insecurity crisis in our community. People love to talk about food, and so many of the people that I know have created innovative and empowering solutions to food insecurity. As individuals we learn to grow our own food, we access food banks and grocery subsidies, we host potlucks and we find ways to demand more from the systems that feed us.

In Peterborough, there are currently 1500 people on the Social Housing Wait List. This means that there is an estimated wait time for six to seven years to find a home. Outside of the affordable housing realm, some landlords refuse to rent to tenants on social assistance further exacerbating an already dismal vacancy rate. The number of rent supplements available in Peterborough covers 0.001% of our population. The costs of purchasing a home in Peterborough increased by over 30% between March 2016 and March 2017. To say that we are experiencing a housing crisis is an understatement. 53% of Peterborough renters live in unaffordable housing conditions. It needs to change.

I think that one of the difficulties with housing security, as opposed to food security, is that it feels so much more out of reach. Not to suggest that achieving food security is in any way easy, but there are means to achieving it on a community and individual level that feel a bit more straightforward. Our answers to the food insecurity crisis in Peterborough are creative, innovative, DIY, and come from the individual and community (while pushing for policy change, which can have a greater impact). Taking housing security into our own hands requires a great deal more capital, not to mention appealing to indifferent lenders and banks and a 25-year commitment.

There are so many creative ways that our community has been responding to this housing crisis. The event Wednesday at City Council, making room for friends in guest bedrooms being some of these. However, we need more solutions. I want Co-operative Student Housing. I want comprehensive policy changes that address our needs. I want ways to pressure landlords to not be assholes. I want housing to be treated as a basic human right rather than an investment for older generations. I want 0% homelessness; 0% housing insecurities; a housing market that I can afford to buy into; and a cute apartment with lots of windows for my houseplants. I want our responses to this crisis to be as varied as our identities, and for the powers that be to listen and change the status quo.

How do you advocate for a more housing secure tomorrow?