Community

Homelessness increases amid housing crisis

More people are at risk of or are already experiencing homelessness in York Region due to factors that include limited affordable housing options and rising costs of living.

The number of people experiencing homelessness increased from 1,395 in 2019 to 1,784 in 2023 and emergency beds and transitional housing are consistently at or near capacity due to increased demand, according to the 2024 to 2027 Homelessness Service System Plan.

The plan is among several initiatives underway to combat the current housing crisis and support residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness. York Region reports it’s working with partners and all levels of government to address issues arising from the housing crisis. Work is underway to provide a full range of housing options to meet resident needs of all ages, abilities, income levels and stages of life, it says.

“Homelessness and housing affordability are complex and growing issues across York Region,” says York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “As part of York Regional Council’s commitment to building strong, safe and caring communities, there are several immediate and long-term actions identified to improve housing stability and affordability. We look forward to collaborating with our partners as we continue to work toward innovative solutions to housing affordability.”

The Homelessness Service System Plan outlines goals and priority areas to improve, enhance and align homelessness services and supports, including homelessness prevention, intervention, housing stability and strengthening a coordinated system response with community partners.

Beginning this year, the region will add 139 new beds in existing emergency and transitional housing, hotel and seasonal shelters; add staff to its Community Paramedicine and Outreach Response Team; add outreach workers to support clients living unsheltered or in encampments; and help people experiencing chronic homelessness.

York Region says it’s continuing to make “significant progress” towards goals and objectives set in the 2023 Housing Solutions: A place for everyone. Among other things, it reports successfully transitioning 1,294 people from emergency housing to long-term housing and diverting 671 people from entering emergency housing to alternative housing options between 2019 to 2023.

In that time, it built almost 460 new community housing units, including Unionville Commons, provided 265 market and subsidized rental homes for seniors in the City of Markham. Another 497 units are in the planning and development stages. Also, it housed 2,800 households from the subsidized housing wait list through community housing, rent supplement and portable housing benefits.

As of March 2024, York Region has an approved housing supply of approximately 46,000 units, with 16,000 more under construction, according to the 2023 Measuring and Monitoring report and the 2024 Housing Supply Update.

Also, according to that update, just 15 per cent of new housing units were considered affordable and all were purpose-built rental units. There were no new affordable ownership units for moderate-income households in 2023, a decrease from the one per cent ownership units deemed affordable in 2022 and “well below” regional targets. The update found a “significant increase” in new rental supply in 2023 with 1,271 new rental units, 265 of which were community housing units delivered by Housing York Inc.

Visit york.ca/HousingAffordability for more details on monitoring housing supply and other housing affordability initiatives.

 

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