Lengthy waiting list for affordable housing in the county
By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 7, 2017
The group of about a dozen seniors gathered in the lounge at Parklane Apartments came to the non-profit housing development at different times and different ages, from different places, for different reasons.
But they all agree on one thing: get your name in early.
They came from Haliburton and Carnarvon, but also Gravenhurst, Oshawa, Markham, Newmarket. Some were living with their kids when a unit opened at Parklane and the call came, inviting them to move in. Some were in the midst of major life changes: selling their house, or dealing with grief from the recent loss of a spouse and had to make a fast decision. Some declined the invitation because they weren’t ready yet, which is possible to do up to three times before a name drops to the bottom of the waiting list. Some wondered whether they were ready and some were ready to move in within days of the call coming.
They were looking for affordability, security, location, accessibility and are thrilled with a place of their own at Parklane, but some had to wait – two years, five years, eight-and-a-half years, 10 years – to get in. There is a resounding “yes” from the entire group when asked if they know others in Haliburton County who are still waiting for affordable housing.
“They’re just hanging on, waiting and hoping that they can come soon,” said Louise McDonald.
About 450 households – individuals, couples, families – are on the waitlist for Parklane Apartments and Echo Hills Legion Apartments in Haliburton, which have a total of 95 units between the two buildings.
“We have two different types of tenancies, those people who receive rent subsidy and those who pay market rent – rent that is comparable to the local private rental market,” said Barb Fawcett, housing manager for Haliburton Community Housing Corporation, which operates the apartments.
“There are many factors that can affect how long it takes to be housed but on average it is taking three to five years for subsidized applicants to be offered housing and about eight years for those waiting on the market rent waiting list.”
In Fawcett’s experience, wait times have gotten longer in the past two decades, which she attributed to limited safe, affordable and available rental housing in the county despite two new facilities, Whispering Pines in Haliburton and Pinegrove Place in Minden, being constructed in the past five years and buildings interspersed in Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce.
“So the stock is increasing but so are the numbers of people struggling to find housing of any kind, but especially affordable,“ she said.
Today, 414 households in Haliburton County are waiting for affordable housing through the Kawartha-Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation, vying for one of 237 financially-assisted housing units in place. Of those 237 units, 34 have been built in the past three years. Another 33 units are planned to be built.
Michelle Corley, program supervisor, housing help with the KLH Housing Corp., said people applying for financially assisted housing are commonly living with friends or family, facing rent that is unaffordable, in housing that is in need of repair, or simply planning for the future.
As a local real estate professional, Denise LeBlanc has seen first-hand the difficulties for people in the county finding affordable housing.
“If you look in Minden right now, you might only find seven listings under $300,000,” she said. “So there’s lots of people waiting in the wings.”
LeBlanc said she was told about the lengthy waiting list for affordable housing facilities in the county, and that she might have to wait up to 10 years once on that list.
“My mindset was, if I have to wait 10 years, I’ll be 70, first of all, and I might be ready then,” she said. “I might not, but I think you’re better off to have the option.”
She knows of friends who thought the wait would be a matter of months, and were surprised, when their need was more urgent, to find that wasn’t the case.
“People wait so long,” said LeBlanc. “They wait so long and then they’re shocked.”
LeBlanc isn’t ready to be called just yet – she sold her own house and lives in one of 15 condos available in a newly constructed building on Newcastle Street – but she doesn’t regret joining when she did.
“I think a lot of people, some of my friends, were saying, ‘you’re not ready for that,’” said LeBlanc. “No, I’m absolutely not ready for it, but I might be in 10 years. People just don’t ... I don’t think they really plan ahead for that.”
The waiting list is causing some local residents to wait for a call before they list their home, while others are selling and living with their children, grandchildren or friends until a spot opens up.
At Parklane, residents shout out the age at which they decided to add themselves – or were added by their children – to the waiting list: 58, 73, 83, 65.
“Even though my wife and I were quite able, still, you’re going to get older, things are going to happen,” said Sid Henstra. “You see people around you that are going, sometimes earlier. You need to make plans when you start to get to 60 or 65.”
“Get on the list,” said Joan Townes, to agreement from the group.
For more information about housing in Haliburton County, visit www.kawarthalakes.ca/en/living-here/klh-housing-corporation.aspx or haliburtonhousing.com.