Affordable Housing

Housing is one of the most basic requirements for human survival. When people are experiencing homelessness, live in substandard housing (e.g., excessive cold, mold, etc.), and/or experience the stress associated with housing insecurity[1], their health is directly impacted. This is especially true for seniors, who often are more frail and face more health challenges than younger people.

The high cost of housing in B.C. means many lower income seniors do not have enough money at the end of the month to afford nutritious food, social outings, medications and/or other supports that they need to maintain their health and independence. For example, the BC Seniors Advocate has estimated that the current median income for seniors of $24,000 is inadequate to cover the costs of housing and living expenses for both renters and owners in housing markets in Metro Vancouver.[2]

In 2011, 16% of B.C. seniors were in core housing need (including 42% of senior renters) – meaning they were in need of “adequate and suitable” housing that wouldn’t cost them more than 30% of their before-tax (gross) household income.[3] Due to the ongoing housing crisis in many B.C. communities, this number is likely much higher today. Some of the other recent statistics support this prediction. For example, there has been a 38% increase in seniors applying for subsidized housing in Metro Vancouver (from 2012 to 2016). [4] Despite this increased demand for subsidized housing, a 2017 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report found that the number of subsidized housing units for seniors in B.C. has remained stagnant over the past 10 years.[5] During this same time period, the rate of those experiencing homelessness in Vancouver who are seniors jumped from 10% in 2005 to 18% in 2016.[6]

While not originally conceived as one of the seven core areas of focus for the Raising the Profile Project (RPP), Housing was added as a focus area after feedback at the regional consultations held across the province in spring 2017 overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of housing as a determinant of health, and how current housing challenges are impacting the work of community-based seniors’ services. Traditionally, most community-based seniors’ services have limited their involvement in the housing sector to information and referral, with few directly providing housing. The current housing crisis in B.C. has, however, put increased pressure on community-based seniors’ services to help support seniors with housing challenges, advocate for affordable housing options and in some cases, to develop non-profit affordable housing options themselves.

Profiles of Housing Programs

Program Profile: Temporary Housing Program

The Seniors Services Society in New Westminster is one example of an organization which provides several housing services for seniors. Their Temporary Housing Program provides up to six months of housing and one-on-one support to seniors who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Read the full profile here.

Footnotes

[1] Bryant, T. (2009). Housing and Health: More than Bricks and Mortar. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social Determinants of Health 2nd Ed. (pp.235-249). Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.

[2] Office of the Seniors Advocate. (2015). Seniors’ Housing in B.C.: Affordable, Appropriate, Available. Retrieved September 4, 2015 from https://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/05/Seniors-Housing-in-B.C.-Affordable-Appropriate-Available.pdf

[3] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2014). NHS-based housing indicators and data. (accessed: November 8, 2016).

[4] Pauly, B., Cross, G., & Weiss, D. (2016). No Vacancy: Affordability and Homelessness in Vancouver. Retrieved from http://www.ugm. ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/HAW_Report_Final-Oct11.pdf

[5] Ivanova, I., Daub, S., Cohen, M., & Jenkins, J. (2017). Poverty and Inequality Among British Columbia’s Seniors. Retrieved from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/SeniorsInequality

[6] Thomson, M. (2016). Vancouver Homeless Count 2016. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/homeless-count-2016-report.pdf