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Life can be tough for those on fixed incomes: housing co-ordinator

Belleville Intelligencer, Tuesday, October 15, 2002
By Barry Ellsworth

Stories like that of Carole Meredith who can't find suitable accommodation in Belleville are all too common, says Reta Sheppard, a housing co-ordinator who compiles listings of rental places available in the private sector.

They are a very often occurrence at our office, she said. Belleville and area are an expensive place to live.

For example, a single person on Ontario Works receives $525 a month. But a one-bedroom apartment averages $550 a month, Sheppard said. So, as in the case of the Meredith family, people are forced to move in together.

That's what people end up doing, she said. If they are on a fixed income, they really don't have any choice.

Sheppard is not surprised Meredith cannot secure an apartment in the private sector, because of her inability to pay her former landlord for three months, even though it was a provincial computer error that caused the problem and the money was eventually forthcoming.

Her options are going to be a lot more limited, Sheppard said.

Meanwhile, there is a year-and-a-half to two-year wait for accommodation in non-profit housing, where people pay about 31 per cent of their gross income for affordable living accommodation.

So, nine people end up living in a three-bedroom home. A patient was kept in hospital longer than necessary because there was no accommodation for him.

Tracey Logan, community programs manager for Hastings County, agreed with Sheppard that people often have to crowd in together just to keep a roof over their heads.

Oh, it's terrible, she said. There's no affordable housing.

That, despite almost 2,500 non-profit social housing units administered by boards of directors and Hastings County.

It sounds like a lot 2,500, said Scott Robertson, manager of housing program for the county. (But) we have a long waiting list.

As of Oct. 3, there were 1,017 households on that list, he said.

The goal of the housing program is to provide safe, affordable and modest housing to low-income residents of Hastings County. With the demand far outstripping the supply, the goal is not being met.

The units, scattered across the county but with the majority in Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, range up to five-bedroom. But it is the smaller units that are particularly scarce, said Logan.

The majority of people who are waiting, are waiting for one-bedroom, she said.

The situation has led to some odd circumstances, Logan said. In one case a man was kept in Kingston General Hospital because there was no accommodation for him in Belleville. Finally the hospital said he had to leave and in desperation he ended up moving in with his ex-wife and her boyfriend, she said.

Two bedroom Belleville apartments, with heat and hydro included, run about $675 in the private sector, Sheppard said. A three-bedroom, probably a duplex, rents for $800-$850, with heat and hydro extra, she said.

A more modern three-bedroom home would cost $950, plus heat and utilities, she said.

Prices are slightly lower in Trenton, Sheppard said.

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