As a follow up to my meeting with the Mayor, I had a chance to participate in a housing round table, where members of the community presented reflections on social housing to MP John McCallum. This follows a blog post by MP McCallum demonstrating that social housing is an area of interest to the federal Liberals, whereas the Conservatives do not believe there should be federal involvement in housing (which is clear from policies and lack of funding over the last 5 years). Here is the gist of my comments, I was one of the last to speak:
“I want to bring to the table a group of people who have not been mentioned yet. I am very happy to see the energy behind affordable housing. However, there is a group of people for whom affordable housing will never be enough. Many of us here who have worked in agencies directly serving persons experiencing homelessness know folks who have been evicted from social housing, some multiple times. These are often people experiencing addictions and/or mental health challenges. For these individuals, housing at 80% the market rate, 70%, or 10% will never be enough. The problem is that they need supports to live in their own accommodations.
We have lessons to learn from the past 5 years of rapid development in social housing, that saw most proposed supportive housing developments simply revert to affordable housing without supports. In our upcoming London Community Housing Strategy we have targeted 1000 new units, with 300 of those being supportive housing. Maybe I’m cynical, but I believe those 300 units will be the last to be built, if they are built at all. That’s because we still have not figured out a good model to make supportive housing work for developers, in the same way we have for affordable housing. No one owns it, and no one is going to invest in it.
Minister McCallum, I know this doesn’t answer your purpose of being in London today, because it only complicates matters. But you started by saying that the Liberal party wants to take care of Canadians who are in need, and those who are chronically homeless are some of the most in need.”