Food for Thought Blog

Lack of Affordable Housing Impacts Dinner Tables throughout Waterloo Region

February 25th, 2021Awareness, COVID-19

The cost of living is skyrocketing, showing us that lack of affordable housing is no longer just a big city problem 

Recent Statistics Canada data shows an increase in the number of people leaving big city life in search of more affordable and spacious living. Many communities across the country have seen home prices and rental rates reach record highs due to the urban sprawl, and Waterloo Region is no exception. According to Padmapper’s February 2021 Canadian Rent Report, Kitchener is the 8th most expensive city to live; with the cost of a one-bedroom rental, increasing 4.4%, to $1,650 per month. 

These increases severely limit the amount of affordable rental options available.  

Visiting a food bank and accessing emergency food assistance looks different for everyone – for some it may mean bridging the gap between paycheques, for other it is literally a life saver – but the key driver is often the same, lack of affordable housing. 

Lack of affordable housing means that paying rent is often prioritized above other expenses, such as heat, hydro, transportation, and food. Locally, 71% of people accessing emergency food assistance live in rentals. 

Nutritious Food Basket

According to the Region of Waterloo 2019 Nutritious Food Basket –  a tool used to estimate the basic local cost of healthy eating for individuals and households – the cost of eating healthy for a family of four in Waterloo Region is $875.92 per month, a 4.9% increase since 2017, or approximately $40.49 more each month.  

For a single person living on Ontario Works (OW) with a fixed monthly income of $825, and rent and food exceeding $1,000, they have nothing remaining to cover additional expenses and start the coming month almost $300 in debt. 

And those expenses will continue to increase as food prices are expected to rise between 3 to 6.5 percent this year.  

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, steadily climbing cost of living and significant increases in food prices, it should come as no surprise that rental arrears have also increased. The 2020 Rental Market Report highlighted that among all provinces, Ontario posted the highest arrears rate in Canada, with 10.18% of apartment units and 0.81% of rent (approximately $87 million) in arrears as of October 2020.  

Have Your Say

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the temporary pause on evictions provided some relief for tenants struggling to afford their rent and other basic necessities. Now, as we approach the one-year mark, many face unaffordable rent arrears and repayment plans, putting an additional strain on already limited budgets. It is clear the need for rent relief has never been higher.  

Click here to send an email to your MPP, asking to implement a rent relief or forgiveness program to assist tenants facing eviction.