Editorial Note: The following is a submitted opinion piece. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.
When people talk about “affordable” housing, they may be referring to many levels of housing. For the wealthy, affordable housing is the cost of buying a house for your nuclear family. For the poor – who are almost never the focus of these discussions because, well, who cares about the poor? – affordable housing becomes a conversation about the cost of a room in a shared house.
Many people are too poor to afford their own studio or one bedroom apartment. Apparently university students can be counted in this group, although most live in shared accommodation because they want the experience of living with their friends or because they don’t really care where yet. where they live, rather than because they simply cannot afford anything better. The real groups who need to live in long-term shared housing are those living below the disability and welfare poverty line.
I used to live in Toronto, where people say the rents are high. But in Toronto, it’s not hard to find a room in a house share for $550/month in a decent neighborhood. In Kingston, on the other hand, you would be lucky to find a room at this price in the worst neighborhoods. And when the cost of public transit is prohibitive and almost none of us own a car, your neighborhood matters a lot and ends up being where you need to spend most of your time. In Kingston’s better neighborhoods, $750/month is more typical for a room, and rooms in shared homes can reach $900/month.
I live on disability because I am too disabled to work. In the event of disability, you receive $1,169 per month, including $497 for housing. Of course, no one can handle that, so a lot of your remaining $672 a month for everything else can end up living in a shitty shared house in a place you’ve had to take, deal with too much noise and a total lack of solitude and privacy. Add to that roommate issues, from having to be an unpaid housekeeper to having to live in genuinely dangerous situations because the only alternative is to leave and become homeless, and the fact that you’re paying 70% of your income for such a place becomes more difficult to digest.
And that’s if you find a place at all. Those privileged enough not to know Kingston’s shared housing rental scene intimately will quickly see, by glancing at the Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace ads, that many of them are saying discriminatory things like “must be a student or work”, which is illegal. yet common, and which leaves welfare recipients with nowhere to go. Throw pets into the mix, which most shared accommodations don’t allow (which is legal if there are tenant or landlord allergies), and losing your current accommodation can easily lead to homelessness. Me, for example, I’m going to lose my place in May, and after three months of checking all the new listings several times a week and posting mine, I still haven’t found something that suits my cats and me. . I’ll have to seriously start planning for homelessness in a few weeks if I haven’t found anything, and a shelter isn’t an option when I have cats. When you’re at the bottom of the ladder and living in Kingston, it’s that easy to get there.
Officially, social housing is the solution for people like me. Social housing, or rent-geared-to-income housing, provides low-cost housing for those who could not otherwise afford an apartment of their own. In Kingston, however, the waiting list for social housing for a single person is around eight years.
I’m only six years old.
I chose to live in Kingston because I love being on the water. I like living in small towns and unlike most small towns, Kingston is on a train and bus route. When my disability forced me to retire young, I chose Kingston to retire.
Now, as my moving date approaches, I find myself thinking about the heartbreaking thought that Kingston is just too expensive for people like me – that maybe if I went somewhere new, leaving behind all the people i love here and giving up my hard-won a place on the waiting list for social housing i might find somewhere else we could afford somewhere else where students don’t have not always the priority and where we might have a chance to have a better life than what Kingston has to offer.
What little people with disabilities receive is a shame to the Ontario government. But the shared housing crisis in Kingston is a unique problem, and so many of us suffer from it every day here.
At the very least, this city must have that.
Frances Koziar is a young (disabled) retiree and social justice advocate who has lived in Kingston for five years. She also manages a few hours a week of writing and has published work in over 75 different literary magazines and media, including other poverty awareness articles in ‘Best Canadian Essays 2021’ and ‘CBC Opinion’.
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