Kitchener-Waterloo

YW Kitchener Waterloo offers more housing options to single mothers

YW Kitchener Waterloo, with help from the Region of Waterloo and funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, will build eight affordable housing units targeted to single mothers.

Development on eight housing units expected to begin May 2022

A new housing project on Block Line Road will offer units to single mothers. This is an artistic rendering of what the building would look like when construction is complete. (Edge Architect)

Eight new affordable housing units for single mothers experiencing chronic homelessness will soon be built on Block Line Road in Kitchener.

The project, led by YW Kitchener-Waterloo, is also being funded by the Region of Waterloo and capital funding was provided through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) Rapid Housing Initiative.

Elizabeth Clarke, CEO of YW Kitchener-Waterloo who is also a regional councillor, said the YW was initially given property from the city to develop affordable housing in 2021.

The organization used that land to start development plans for 41 units for chronically homeless women. When those plans were completed, they were left with a small triangle of property. Clarke says the YW saw an opportunity to build more affordable housing, this time for homeless women with children.

The left-over property was big enough for eight two-bedroom units, but Clarke says she hopes the organization will be able to build more in the future.

"Right now we have about 1,800 households facing eviction," Clarke says, adding the increase in people facing eviction in Waterloo region went up by about 400 per cent during the pandemic.

At the onset of the pandemic, the Ontario government suspended all evictions. Now that the eviction freeze is over, Clarke says there is a "really big backlog" of eviction notices.

Some families have already been evicted but have been placed in motels with the help of YW.

Housing prices rise in region

In December in Waterloo region, the average price of a detached home reached $1,021,353, the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors reported.

Many say the rapid increase to the price of homes in Waterloo Region has pushed home ownership further out of reach.

The end of the year saw the average price of a detached home in Kitchener-Waterloo soar to over a million dollars.

The average price of an apartment style condo was just over half a million.

That's pricing some people out of the market. In November, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo spoke to Lavourine Bryan who rents her place in Kitchener. She said she has considered home ownership.

"I hear the pros and cons of it," she said. "They say you pay more in mortgage than you do in paying rent."

Atiqur Rahman bought a home in Waterloo just before prices started to soar.

"I lucked out. I bought a house right before the crazy boom. My house value more than doubled and that's the only way I was able to afford my current house. Otherwise, there's no chance," he said.

Need for affordable housing

There were 1,085 people who are experiencing homelessness in September when the region's most recent point-in-time count took place. A significant proportion — about 412 people — were living rough, including in encampments. 

People in the community have spoken out about the need for more affordable housing in Waterloo region.

In November, advocates rang the alarm on the housing situation after a homeless encampment on Charles Street East and Stirling Avenue S. was cleared by police, regional bylaw officers and a bulldozer.

Dozens of people gathered at the site of the encampment to protest the eviction. With many calling for more permanent solutions, such as regional funding into services that cover mental health, addictions and housing.

Some people urged regional council to divert money from policing to housing during regional budget deliberations.

Suhanya Ketheeswaran of Cambridge said at a Dec. 8 meeting that there should be increased funding to support affordable housing, homelessness, unemployment and mental health.

"I don't know how it came to be that our public dollars are invested so heavily into policing at the expense of more effective strategies for preventing crime and building safe, healthy and thriving communities," she said.

This photo taken by Elizabeth Clarke shows the building currently under construction. (Elizabeth Clarke/YW Kitchener-Waterloo)

Who gets YW's housing?

Clarke says YW will work with Lutherwood, a not-for-profit health and social service organization, to decide which eight single mothers will move into the units. The families will be chosen from one of two wait lists: Families in Transition and HOC Housing Path. 

Clarke says the YW will look at households that have higher needs for support and families that tend to need YW services more.

At the moment, Clarke says there are about a dozen families in need, but she expects that number to rise as evictions increase.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josette Lafleur

Web writer

Josette Lafleur is a multimedia journalist, newsreader and associate producer working with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

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