Canada is in the midst of a housing crisis. The average purchase price for a home has just exceeded $715,000, and rents have continued to rise as well. The unabated inflation of housing prices and rental markets is due to many factors, from predatory speculation and gentrification to the liquidation of affordable housing supply into market value stock. For people who experience disabilities, there are barriers when seeking housing, from financial considerations, accessibility issues, and proximity to community services, to societal bias, discrimination, and segregation.
A disproportionate number of people who experience intellectual or cognitive disabilities are in core housing need, which means their accommodations are deemed unaffordable, unsuitable, or inadequate. They are more likely to be homeless, experience poverty, be separated from support networks, and live in institutional settings due to housing scarcity. Nearly one person in five who experiences a disability over the age of 15 years old lives in a household in core housing need, almost double the national average.
According to the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a person would have to earn $18.05 per hour or work over 60 hours a week at the minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Saskatoon. The situation is similar in other rural and urban municipalities throughout the province.
One new initiative, the Willowview Heights project, seeks to disrupt the provincial affordable housing crisis within a person-centred context that addresses the diverse needs of tenants while achieving community inclusion and participation for people who experience intellectual disabilities. In 2020, The National Affordable Housing Corporation, Real Life Rentals, and Inclusion Saskatchewan partnered to build Willowview Heights: a 72-unit mixed affordable market rental development in Saskatoon. The project includes six affordable rental units that provide housing for nine people who experience intellectual or cognitive disabilities.
The development of Willowview Heights has added much-needed affordable housing supply in a perpetually stressed market that excludes historically oppressed and marginalized populations. Our collaborative delivery of holistic support services at Willowview Heights sets it apart from other developments in the sector. We built in community engagement and support throughout all aspects of the project, to ensure that tenants are empowered to identify appropriate and effective services to meet their needs and assist in learning the essential skills to maintain their tenancy successfully. Tenants who experience intellectual or cognitive disabilities are supported to access and understand their responsibilities for suite maintenance, human rights, foster communication with neighbours and roommates, and practical problem-solving tactics. The tenants will contribute to a plain-language guide with the partner organizations that synthesize good practices in inclusive housing development and community relations to use in other projects in North America.
Inclusion Saskatchewan is grateful and fortunate to work with such passionate and dedicated partners in the National Affordable Housing Corporation and Real Life Rentals. Housing is a human right and everyone deserves a home of their own.
Written By Dallas Tetarenko, Manager of Initiatives