Posted July 19, 2019
Tenants juggling multiple minimum-wage jobs just to get by is a common refrain heard by Hamilton ACORN chair Mike Wood.
As rents climb, he said he hears from people logging more hours at as many as three jobs just to be able to afford the basics.
"Where do you get a part of your life to spend with your family or whoever it is if you're going to work that many jobs and hours just to survive?" the tenant advocate said.
A new study released Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows a worker making Ontario's $14-an-hour minimum wage would have to work 54 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton, and 65 hours for a two-bedroom place.
Working 40 hours a week, people would have to earn $18.99 an hour on average to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton and $22.78 for a two-bedroom spot, the report called Unaccommodating: Housing Rental Wage in Canada shows.
Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, called the local numbers "particularly concerning."
"It's obviously shocking and not terribly surprising for those of us who have heard the challenges faced by low-income tenants in Hamilton."
None of Hamilton's 22 neighbourhoods are affordable for minimum-wage earners when it comes to renting one- and two-bedroom apartments, the report shows.
The study defines affordable as spending no more than 30 per cent of before-tax income on housing.
Hamilton is not alone.
In Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40 an hour and $20.20 for a one bedroom, the report shows.
Out of the country's 795 neighbourhoods, there are 24 where a person working full time and making minimum wage could afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment, according to the study, which is based on October 2018 rents and wages.
ACORN, a national organization that represents the interests of low- to moderate-income earners, has been lobbying the province for "real rent control" on vacant units, Wood said.
He said "renovictions" are taking place when developers push tenants out of units to refurbish them and charge new occupants higher rents.
"Every time a unit becomes vacant, they increase the rents three, four times the amount it was," he said. "This is exactly what we're talking about where it's far out of reach for many people."
For Cooper, the report "sends a clear message" that housing — particularly for Canadians who rent — should be on the agenda for the federal election.
"Really, they have been forgotten by successive governments ever since the National Housing Policy was cancelled in 1996 under the Jean Chrétien government," he said. "Although we now have a new National Housing Strategy for the first time in 20 years, it's not enough and it's not quick enough."
Cooper pointed to a new Feed Ontario study that showed the riding of Hamilton Centre had the second highest concentration per capita of food bank use in Ontario last year.
This is directly related to the "housing crunch," he said.
"As people spend more on housing, that's less left over for food and other essentials and so people are forced to go to food banks."
Article by Natalie Paddon for the Hamilton Spectator