Food for Thought Blog

Addressing the need for affordable and adequate housing in Waterloo Region

September 18th, 2021Awareness

The Record reached out to members of their Community Advisory Council, asking them to write about issues of importance during this federal election. This is one of those columns. 

This piece originally appeared in The Record on September 7, 2021.

Humans have four basic needs that must be met in order to survive — food, water, air and shelter.

For many of us, we can meet our basic needs. But for more than 33,000 people in Waterloo Region, that’s simply not the case.

Without access to the necessities, it is increasingly difficult for people — our friends, family, and neighbours — to not only survive, but thrive.

There are many reasons a person may be unable to meet their basic needs, such as sudden job loss, rising cost of food, a pandemic and, most commonly, lack of affordable housing.

Lack of affordable housing means low-income Ontarians often have no choice but to allocate much of their monthly income (more than 30 per cent) to their housing expenses.

Waterloo Region is home to one of the most expensive housing and rental markets in the country. The average sale price of a detached home has surpassed $900,000, and Kitchener was listed in the top 10 most expensive rental markets in Canada.

In Ontario, 90 per cent of food-bank users are rental- or social-housing tenants who spend more than 70 per cent of their income on rent. As a result, they are forced to go without other necessities, like heat, hydro, medicine, personal protective equipment or food, in order to keep a roof over their heads.

What would your life look like if you had to spend 70 per cent of your income on housing costs?

Clear Connection between affordable housing and food bank usage

Every day at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, we hear and see the connection between housing inadequacies and food insecurity. As leader of the Community Food Assistance Network, we work collaboratively with more than 100 community programs and agency partners to provide access to emergency food and other vital supports and services to people in need across Waterloo Region.

Last year, 5,041,182 pounds of food were acquired, coordinated, and distributed, providing 3,106,136 meals. But is it enough — will it break the cycle of poverty and help our neighbours thrive?

The solution lies in policy change. We work alongside our national and provincial peers to advocate for change by sharing stories and statistics about the realities in our communities — families living in unsafe and inadequate housing, or newcomers unable to find an affordable place to live. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region is proud to support Feed Ontario and the work they are doing to engage in conversations about:

  • Investing in social and supportive housing;
  • Expanding the portable housing benefit;
  • Strengthening housing and rental laws;
  • Providing rental relief to low-income tenants facing eviction.

In Waterloo Region, we are making progress because we have leaders that understand the importance of change and are also willing to do the work. It’s time to act and we need to move quickly; our community, security and future depends on it.

Wendi Campbell, CEO of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, brings more than 25 years’ experience and expertise to the non-profit sector. A passionate community leader and strategic connector, Wendi takes a progressive approach to ensure those in need of food support receive assistance.