Social Housing & Families – March 18, 2020

Find below a rough break down of our main concerns as helpers to families in Winnipeg’s inner city (& beyond) who are all involved in child welfare and are concerned about social housing. Find below our point form rundown of the situation in the following headings:

  • Housing Crisis in Manitoba
  • Social Housing in Manitoba
  • Attack on Social Housing
  • “Transformation” of Manitoba Housing
  • Housing and Family Wellbeing

Details on how to join the video or phone call can be found at the bottom of this post! Our Video Conference is now, follow us on social media to find out our next Google Hangout!

Shout out to the Right To Housing Coalition for compiling most of this info. We will be updating this with more sources asap!

Housing Crisis in Manitoba 

  • 120,000-190,000 Manitobans live in poverty
  • At least 1519 people currently houseless in Winnipeg (2018 Street Census) 
  • Rents are rising at double the rate of inflation, significantly outpacing any increases in wages or EIA rates. 
  • Manitoba is currently facing an acute low-income housing crisis – almost 20% of Manitoban households are living in ‘unaffordable housing’ (i.e. paying more than 30% of their income towards shelter costs). For Manitoban renters, this number jumps up to 37%. 
  • According to the 2016 Census: 

Social Housing in Manitoba

  • Housing is an expensive commodity. If we leave it to the market, landlords collecting lower rents are pushed (willingly or otherwise) to avoid repairs in order to make any profit (resulting in slum housing). In order to affordably, safely, and adequately house folks with low incomes, we NEED social housing.
  • Approx. 6-7% of the housing units in Manitoba are considered ‘non-market’ housing, or housing that receives some sort of subsidy (as opposed to private, or ‘market’ housing). This is slightly better than the Canadian average (~5-6%) but is still grossly insufficient to meet current need.
  • Manitoba Housing Renewal Corporation (MHRC) owns ~35,000 social housing units across the province. About half of those are managed by MHRC, and the other half are managed by non-profit (and a couple of for-profit) housing providers. 
  • About 85% of the MHRC’s stock are ‘rent-geared-to-income’, or ‘RGI’ units (also referred to as ‘social housing’ or ‘deeply affordable housing’) where households are only charged up to 30% of their income for rent. The remaining 15% of the stock are ‘affordable’ units where all households are charged a fixed amount of rent, usually at or below their city’s median market rent (MMR). 
  • MHRC also disburses the funding for the ‘Rent Assist’ program, where Manitoban households living in private housing can access subsidies to pay for a portion of their rent. The Rent Assist benefit is automatically added to the shelter benefit of households on EIA, and families that are not receiving EIA can apply if they are below a certain income bracket. 

Attack on Social Housing 

  • As rents increase and social housing supply decreases, we’re seeing a dramatic rise in demand for social housing. 
    • Mb Housing waitlist has grown to 7,000 applicants 9,000 applicants! 3 years ago there were only 4,000 people on the wait list.
    • It is estimated that 1000 new units per year are needed to keep up with population growth
  • The Conservative government has failed to address the crisis and made significant cuts to the social housing sector. Despite having only 1/3 of the social housing stock we need, since 2016:
    • NO new Social Housing has been built
    • More difficult to qualify for supports like Rent Assist  
    • Lower deductible from rent assist (from 25% of a family’s income to 30%)
    • Social housing rents are increasing 
    • Reduced social housing repair and investment budgets from $120M annually in 2015/16 to $25.6M in 2018/19
    • Eliminated a number of jointly-funded home repair/modification programs
  • In 2016-17 Manitoba committed funding for 100 affordable housing units, none of which are social housing.
  • In 2017-18 Manitoba committed funding for 137 affordable housing (not social housing) units including homeownership and private rental.  They committed to funding an additional 50 shelter beds.
  • Most concerningly, the government has committed to attempting to sell off ALL of its units in the next 8-10 years under the very misleading banner of ‘transformation’. 800 units have already been sold off to the private sector. 

‘Transformation’ of Manitoba Housing

  •  In late 2019, the current Manitoba government officially announced that it would be ‘transforming’ Manitoba Housing to make it more ‘sustainable’ for years to come. This language is misleading – in reality, the government plans to sell off as much as ALL of the social housing units owned by Manitoba Housing to the non-profit and for-profit sectors in the next 8-10 years. 
  • What will happen to the units that are being sold off? Manitoba Housing units will either be transferred to other non-profit housing providers (e.g. Kinew Housing, Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation) or to for-profit housing providers.
  • Why should we be concerned? 
    • Social Housing may become more expensive: The federal and provincial government require that the units remain ‘affordable’ housing (i.e. at or just below the Median Market Rent for a given city) but NOT necessarily ‘social’ housing (i.e. tied to 30% of the tenants income). 
    • Unclear who will be building new units: The government has not explained how new units will be built under the proposed model, and who will build them. 
    • Loss of accountability and transparency: Selling off units to smaller organizations will make it more challenging to hold the social housing sector accountable and govern it collectively (in addition to costing significantly more).  
    • Loss of accessibility and flexibility: Unlike other non-profit housing providers, Manitoba Housing did not turn applicants away because of their credit history or previous evictions – even if a former tenant owes them money, they are still allowed to set up a payment plan and reapply. They are also more flexible with families that are late on rent or having issues meeting other tenant obligations because they have dedicated ‘tenant resource coordinators’ to provide support. It is unlikely that any transfer to the non-profit sector (and certainly the private sector) will have similar accommodations. Finally, Manitoba Housing does not charge a damage deposit, making it significantly more accessible.  
    • Special care for families in difficult circumstances: Unlike other non-profit providers, Manitoba Housing will prioritize families that are seeking to escape domestic violence or reunify with their children. If a tenant has their children apprehended, they will charge the single-person rent rate for up to two years to enable stable reunification. 

Housing and Family wellbeing 

  • Unsurprisingly, housing quality can have a deep and lasting impact on family well-being: 
    • Many studies in the US and Canada have demonstrated that adequate, safe, and affordable housing is crucial for tenant’s physical and mental health. 
    • Studies in the US have shown that families in stable housing (even when accounting for income and other factors) are less likely to experience apprehensions and more likely to succeed in the reunification process. 
    • Students that are stably housed consistently perform better in school 
    • [Still looking into stats on the justice system – will send later!) 
  • Social housing is significantly more cost effective than other institutional responses. The annual cost per person for housing an individual is as follows (Numbers from CCPA study) 
    • Prison or hospital: $120,000
    • Emergency shelter: $42,000
    • Supportive & Transitional Housing: $18,000
    • Affordable Housing with Supports: $8,000
    • *It is more than 5x cheaper to house someone in social housing than in an emergency shelter

Join the Call: This call is over!

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Fearless R2W Social Housing & Families Learning Circle
Wednesday, 18 March⋅6:00pm

Join by phone
‪+1 615-933-6042‬ PIN: ‪832 468 351‬#

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