One term we often see used is affordable housing, but I believe the term affordable is a very subjective one and is of little use unless we know the situation that every person in need of a home is currently experiencing. There is usually a figure that identifies what percentage of person or family’s income should be spent on housing needs. I’m not sure how we can use one figure for everyone without knowing what that person or family’s expenses are. Statistics Canada informs us that if a family is spending over 30% of their income on shelter related expenses, they are living in unaffordable housing which can have a severe impact on their ability to live above the poverty line.
In addition to finding housing that is affordable, many times people must live in housing that, while it may qualify as affordable, does not meet many of the basic requirements most of us would consider to be at the very least adequate. Many cities that do create areas of lower cost housing, usually end up creating a poverty ghetto-like complex that can have a very negative affect on many families. We tend to place these families somewhere that is far from those of us who can afford better housing. There are now apartments buildings being built that offer lower rental units geared to income which we call inclusionary housing. This method at least gives lower income families a sense of human dignity and the encouragement to take pride in their living quarters.
There is a great need for us as Vincentians to speak out and advocate to all levels of government to address the housing issues faced by our neighbors in need. We can often see and experience through our home visits, the living conditions many people are forced to live in. There is a lot to be said for the old saying…a man’s home is his castle…. People just want to have a home that can be a place to live in, to raise a family and to enjoy the friendship of their neighbors. Our actions and words can be part of an advocacy plea for the housing that can fulfill the dreams of many of those we serve.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.