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7-year wait for families on Simcoe County housing list: report

As of Dec. 31, County of Simcoe's rent-geared-to-income wait list sits at 4,664 households, while only 2,772 total units exist
2021-04-14 House key
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For families, individuals, and seniors in need of low-rent housing controlled by the county, the wait is about five to seven years.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, 4,664 households are on the County of Simcoe’s centralized rent-geared-to-income housing wait list.

The average wait time on the list for a family or individual is more than seven years. Those escaping abuse are prioritized, however then the wait time is still an average of more than four years.

These and other sobering statistics on the current state of the County of Simcoe’s social housing wait list were presented in a report as part of Friday’s (June 17) Affordable Housing Advisory Committee meeting.

“We’re steadily climbing but not at an overly fast rate, which I guess is a silver lining,” said Chair and Tiny Township Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.

The report provides data on the centralized wait list for rent-geared-to-income assistance as of Dec. 31, 2021.

Of the 4,664 households on the centralized wait list, 1,315 are families (28%), 2,430 are adults with no dependents (52%) and 919 are seniors (20%). This represents an increase of 2.6% overall compared to the 2020 wait list.

During the meeting, General Manager of Social and Community Services Greg Bishop acknowledged that the need has increased county-wide, even since Dec. 31, 2021.

“Across the province and Simcoe County of course, the need is greater. It continues to be, partly because of the pandemic and partly because of limited housing supply,” said Bishop.

Currently, the county has approximately 3,000 rent-geared-to-income units available, however, only has access to 2,772 units as former federal providers are not mandated to participate in the centralized wait-list system.

When applying through the county’s process, applicants are entered into RENTCafe, a common housing sector database.

The database captures information regarding the applicant’s personal and emergency contact information, household composition, past rental history, current income and housing location preferences.

Applicant information is updated annually or each time an applicant reports a change in their circumstances.

Once approved to go on the list, special-priority applicants (those escaping abuse or who have been trafficked) are put at the top of the list, while all other applicants are added in chronological order.

Task force member and Executive Director of the Busby Centre Sara Peddle noted concern that individuals and families are removed from the list if the county is unable to contact the applicant.

In 2021, the county processed 1,606 new applications and cancelled 1,436.

“My concern is when we see cancellation because of non-contact, especially in the homeless population, because contact can be a challenge when they don’t have phones,” said Peddle.

Bishop said the most frequent reasons for lack of contact can include that the applicant has moved out of the area, or found housing through other means.

“If they get cancelled, we refer to it as basically asking them to step out of line because we can’t reach them,” said Applicant Tenant Services Supervisor Debbie Harris. “If they do pop up or we find them later on, there’s no penalty. We re-instate them and they stay on the list with their original date.”

Time spent on the wait list varies depending on personal circumstances.

When including special priority applicants, current wait times are 6.8 years for seniors, 4.3 years for applicants with no dependants and 2.9 years for applicants with dependants. Average wait time overall is 4.7 years.

When taking the special priority applicants out of the equation, current wait times are 7.4 years for seniors, 9.4 years for applicants with no dependants and 5.2 years for applicants with dependants. Average wait time overall is 7.3 years.

In 2021, 182 new households were housed in rent-geared-to-income units county-wide. The average turnover of units over the past three years was 6.9 per cent.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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