Housing is a basic human need, essential to survival, health and well-being. Housing provides a foundation to address poverty, crime, addiction, poor health, unemployment, gender-based violence, and the apprehension of children by Child and Family Services. Additionally, we cannot end homelessness without ensuring access to housing.
Thousands of people are unable to find stable housing in Manitoba. The private rental market is unaffordable to people experiencing poverty and homelessness. For example, households in the lowest quartile of incomes spend an average of 68% of their incomes on housing. This has escalated the demand for non-market, social housing where rents are capped at 30% of a household’s income. Nearly 6,000 households are on the waitlist for social housing. With nowhere else to go, many people stay with friends, family, in shelters, or outside. According to the 2022 point in time count, more than 1,200 people experience homelessness on any given night in Winnipeg alone. Another 4,000 more are conservatively estimated to be experiencing hidden homelessness.
All levels of government must finally do what is necessary to address the housing crisis. This means recognizing that the 30-year-old experiment of relying almost exclusively on the private market to produce low-rent housing has failed. Other sectors are joining the growing consensus that the housing crisis won’t be solved without government reinvestment in social housing.
The Right to Housing Coalition released a social housing action plan for Manitoba based on decades of research and consultation. The plan focuses on expanding and preserving the supply of social housing with supports, strengthening rent regulations and tenant protections, and creating training and jobs for low-income people in the construction and maintenance of social housing. The plan’s 5 pillars have been endorsed by more than 90 organizations. The Manitoba government must implement this plan to address housing insecurity and homelessness starting with the following investments in Budget 2024:
- A capital and acquisition fund to add 1,000 rent-geared-to-income social housing units in 2024/25 owned by public, non-profit, and co-op housing providers.
- A capital maintenance fund and an operating subsidy fund to protect existing social housing and ensure no units are lost due to disrepair or lack of subsidies.
- Funding to ensure all social housing tenants have access to support workers with a minimum ratio of 1 worker per 100 units.