Accessible housing crisis will reach breaking point, says housing co-ordinator
'We really just got to start building differently as a society using universal design,' Chris Rootsaert says
An accessible housing co-ordinator says the housing market for people with physical disabilities is at a "crisis point" in Manitoba.
"In a few years it's going to be so dire that a lot of our housing systems are going to be reaching a breaking point, particularly with the aging population," said Chris Rootsaert, who works at Ten Ten Sinclair Housing Inc.
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Rootsaert helps tenants in transitional accessible housing find more permanent housing that allows them to function independently.
Rootsaert said it's frustrating to pass new developments, even 55+ buildings, and see that they have steps leading up to the door, making them inaccessible for many of his clients.
He can usually only find a handful of possible buildings for his clients and they often end up on waiting lists, he said.
"It's increasingly frustrating for the individuals I work with," he said. "It's also frustrating in my position to see, day in and day out, I'm looking for new housing options and there's not a lot coming up on the radar."
The longest someone has had to wait for an accessible home was eight years, Rootsaert said.
"It almost seems like the stars have to align properly to have a housing option that comes along," he said. "Winnipeg has always prided itself on being a front-runner in a lot of accessibility issues, and we've even kind of fallen behind on some of the progress we were making back a few decades ago."
Amy LeBleu is in the Ten Ten Sinclair transitional housing program and has been searching for a permanent home for three years, she said.
She is paraplegic and uses a manual wheelchair, so she needs a home with no steps, low counters and cupboards, wide doorways and a bathroom big enough to allow her to close the door, she said.
"I'm ready to move from Ten Ten Sinclair because i'm ready to be 100 per cent on my own," she said. "There's not a lot."