Do you know where you’re going to sleep tonight?
If you do, ask yourself, how many steps am I away from becoming homeless? If I didn’t get my pay cheque on time, could I pay my rent, my mortgage? The road to losing stable housing is not necessarily a complicated one; it can start with having hours cut at your primary job, a medical emergency, or a car accident. Sometimes it takes only one unpredictable expense that can move someone from stability to instability.
Calgary is a city known for its boom and bust economy where housing and rental rates often skyrocket overnight; it’s sadly no surprise that more than 90,000 households need affordable housing. The households in the greatest need are female seniors living alone, female-headed lone parent families and indigenous households. Housing is a basic right, and a stable and sustainable lifestyle for women, children and men requires affordable housing.
Consider this, we know women make up 62 per cent of minimum wage earners and almost half of Alberta’s minimum wage earners are parents. If you were earning, on average $12.55/hour working full time, your annual salary would be $23,004.15. Housing is considered affordable when a household spends less than 30 per cent of its pre-tax income on shelter, meaning you have $575.10 to spend per month. A quick search on Rentfaster.ca shows seven rental properties are available to rent without a roommate, and all of them are one bedroom and one bathroom. Knowing that those most affected by high rental rates are lone-parents, there is no way that you could afford to house yourself and your family without affordable housing.
But even with access to limited affordable housing in Calgary, you’re most likely to get placed on a waitlist. Reports indicate that the most common households on the waiting list for affordable housing are lone-parents, non-senior singles and two parent families making the demand for two-bedroom units the greatest. The need for affordable housing is outpacing the number of affordable units available by a shortage of 2,500 units per year. Something needs to change.
Without affordable housing, we know women are at a greater risk of violence, abuse and victimization when they do not have a safe place to call home. Women will sleep on the streets, trade sex for a place to stay and remain in abusive relationships to avoid entering into a cycle of homelessness. We know that the face of poverty in Canada is a woman’s face and when women live in poverty, so do their children.
Affordable housing is one piece of the pie in ending homelessness and the need for more affordable housing in Calgary is great. We were thrilled to celebrate Horizon Housing’s breaking ground on a new affordable housing project this week. We want to continue to see progress on housing because having a safe place to call home enables women and their families to thrive in our communities.