Right to Housing Coalition is a non-profit, volunteer advocacy coalition of 47 supporting organizations. We have an active membership of over 40 individuals and an email circulation list of 160. Although R2H is based in Winnipeg, we maintain contact with housing advocates in Brandon, Thompson and Selkirk. I appreciate this opportunity to report on the past year’s activities.
As the of the future of the operational land on the Kapyong base drags on, we are preparing for the time when it will be opportune to advocate for a diverse housing plan to be included. However knowing that the Federal Government has appealed the court decision again tells us not to expect any actions in the near future.
This year Right to Housing has produced major policy papers aimed at the Federal and City of Winnipeg governments. They can be seen on our website, www.righttohousing.ca The Federal Government continues to refuse to meet with us so we are not counting on any significant change in their policy to gradually withdraw from all funding of affordable and social housing. The City of Winnipeg is in the process of drafting a new housing policy, a process in which we are taking an active part. However the City budget has being tabled and it does not appear to allow for any significant policy changes, at least for the coming year.
Our working relationship with the Provincial Government is more positive. Because of the expiration of operating grants on social housing Manitoba Housing has the unwelcome task of deciding which social housing units will be maintained and which will be forced to charge market rents, or be sold outright. In either case these units will be lost as social housing. This is a devastating loss of a publically funded infrastructure resource at a time when Manitoba needs more not less social housing. We recently received confirmation that no four and five bedroom homes would be sold after our members made a passionate plea to safeguard these larger homes as they are exactly what large families of newcomers need.
Right to Housing is a supporter of Make Poverty History Manitoba and we are active in the campaign to increase the housing allowance for recipients of Employment and Income Assistance including the 12 Days of Christmas initiative that ended on January 4. The Provincial position is that they are trying to encourage education, training and getting employment as their solution to EIA housing problems. We don’t and can’t argue with that, however it does nothing for the 60% of recipients that are unemployable for reasons such as disabilities, health and family circumstances. Nor does their precarious housing condition encourage education and training for employment. The housing allowances have not been raised since 1992 and rents have been sky rocketing, making food banks and increasing homelessness hard facts of life.
Bill C-400 is a private member’s bill that if passed, would mandate the Federal Government to take leadership in convening all levels of government, First Nations, non-profits and the private sector to negotiate a sustainable national housing strategy. Canada is the only G8 country without such a strategy. It is almost certain that this bill will not pass, but R2H is still encouraging members of parliament to support it.
SOME HOUSING FACTS:
The rental vacancy rate in Winnipeg is just over 1.7%, still among the lowest in the country.
The rental universe in Winnipeg continues to lose units, due to conversions to condos and demolitions.
Since 1992 Winnipeg’s rental universe has declined by 9%, from 57,279 to 52,319. Over this same time Winnipeg’s population has increased by 11%, from 677,000 to 753,600.
Homelessness in Winnipeg is rising steadily. We have 350 regular shelter beds in Winnipeg, (increasing to 500 in severely cold weather). They are full every night and people are always being turned away. Homeless people are not always visible as they are often living in overcrowded apartments with friends and relatives, (couch surfing).
Soup kitchens and Winnipeg Harvest have become a necessity not just for the homeless, but also for households who must supplement their housing budget with food money and depend on Harvest to keep from starving.
SUMMARY OF OUR ACTIONS IN 2012
We don’t spend a lot of time accounting for our activities but a quick look through my day book and hard drive came up with this rough calculation of the coalition’s activity in 2012.
Affordable Rental Housing Roundtable meetings: 3
Demonstrations and staged events: 5
Letters to the editor, media interviews, op/eds: 5
Letters to the Minister of Housing in Manitoba: 2
Letters to Premier Selinger: 2
Letters to Members of Parliament: 3
Meetings with Members of Parliament: 2
Meetings with the Minister of Housing: 2
Meetings with Manitoba Housing: 2
Meeting with Opposition MLAs: 1
Meetings with City Counselors: 1
Meetings with Winnipeg Housing: 5
Press Releases: 5
These tangible deliverables represent many hours of regular coalition meetings and consultations. For more details about the content you may want to go to our website, www.righttohousing.ca or visit our Facebook page. We are always glad to speak to community interest groups. Individuals are welcome to any of our monthly meetings. They are held at Crossways in Common on the third Tuesday afternoon of each month.