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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex MP calls for more affordable housing in Essex County

by Kyle Reid

Homelessness is a problem in Essex County, even though it may not be visible, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey said during an Affordable Housing Town Hall held at the Libro Community Centre in Amherstburg last Friday evening.

“I want to tell you a story about another woman we helped and her name is Crystal,” Ramsey said during the event. “She came to us because her brother was out here in the County living in a tent. He just had fallen off the edges of being able to stay in people’s homes.”

According to the eight panel members of local community support group representatives who participated in the event Ramsey organized, homelessness in the County often goes unrecognized. 

John Sutton, Executive Director of Access County Community Support, said homelessness often happens in the form of couch-surfing, and that numbers of homelessness in Essex County are likely underreported.

While homelessness may be a bigger issue in the County than people realize, many living in the County could also be teetering on the brink of losing their homes. According to numbers Ramsey quoted, which the Rental Housing Index provided, 46 percent of households are spending over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. Nineteen percent of renters are spending over 50 percent of their take home pay to afford to live.

“We know that’s one in five people spending more than 50 percent of what they earn to pay for housing costs alone in Essex County,” Ramsey said.

The solution to the problem may not be that simple, though. While Ramsey called on intervention from the federal government to help solve the problem, including increasing funding for community support organizations, members of the panel noted that solutions need to come from the municipal level as well.

“People without stable housing can’t wait,” Joyce Zak said, who is the Executive Director of Family Services of Windsor-Essex County. “We need to get more creative in our communities.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, however, told the panel it’s often difficult to get people to support affordable housing developments. DiCarlo said the Town regularly sees applications to build affordable housing, but they rarely see support from the community. He pointed to a recent application to develop affordable housing on a still vacant lot that Amherstburg Town Council denied.

“All it took was one letter from someone saying, ‘don’t you dare build that near me,” DiCarlo said.

Sutton also touched on the same issue, noting that people’s attitudes towards affordable housing need to change.

“When certain people hear ‘affordable housing,’ they think crime [and] drugs,” Sutton said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Those things are already in the community.”

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