Recommendation: the Province of Manitoba build a minimum of 300 net new units of rent-geared-to-income housing annually for five years to meet the increasing need of social housing for low-income families.
Housing is the single biggest expense for people living in poverty. More than half of all households in Manitoba with incomes below $30,000 per year pay more than 30 per cent of their income in shelter costs (2011). According to the 2011 National Household Survey, more than 46,000 Manitoba households experience core housing needs: paying unaffordable rent, living in overcrowded or substandard housing and unable to afford suitable accommodations elsewhere.
In 2009, the Provincial government committed to building 1,500 units of affordable housing at median market rent. While these units filled a much-needed gap in the rental market for moderate income families, for families and individuals on Employment and Income Assistance and other households with very low incomes, these units remained unaffordable – currently median market rent is over $1,000 per month for a two bedroom in Winnipeg, greater than the total income of many families.
Thanks to pressure from housing advocates, the Province provided 1,500 units of rent-geared-to-income (RGI) social housing over five years (2009 to 2014). RGI housing provides a greater subsidy, making it affordable for households, regardless of their income. Continued pressure led to a subsequent commitment increased this number by 500 units over three years (2014 to 2016).
Despite these welcome investments, more social housing is still needed. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 43,000 Manitoba households are in core housing need, living in housing that is unaffordable, overcrowded or in poor repair. To meet existing demand, as well as the needs of a growing population, a renewed commitment to building social housing is needed.
As well as building new housing, Manitoba must ensure that its existing stock of social housing is maintained. The federal government is in the process of pulling out from funding social housing across Canada. The expiry of federal housing dollars, already underway, will effectively de-fund 30,000 social housing units in Manitoba over twenty years. We are therefore calling on the province to ensure that any units it builds add to the net new stock of social housing in Manitoba.