637 Days

By Mandie Martin, Community Engagement Intern/Placement Student

It has been 637 days since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. 637 days is equivalent to 90 weeks, 20 months, nearly two years, or roughly 15,000 hours. There is so much that has happened in 637 days. 

For some folks in the past 637 days, the home has doubled as a workplace, an elementary school, a university or college, a gym or fitness studio, and/or a place of worship. We have had birthday parties canceled, holiday dinners via video chat, groceries and meals delivered, and celebrated milestones alone. 

For many residents, the idea of being home for 637 days is dreadful. With inadequate, inappropriate, and overcrowded housing, it is a constant reminder of the lack of safe, affordable housing and a lack of support.  

When we take care of the need for safe and affordable housing, individuals have better educational outcomes, improved health, employment stability, and less reliance on social services such as food banks, lunch programs, Ontario Works, etc. (CMHC, BCG). 

For many low-income families, the dream of owning safe and affordable housing is just that: a dream. Many of these families live in inadequate homes that are unsafe, overcrowded, or homes that are unaffordable.  

Sault Ste. Marie (SSM) has not been the exception to this housing crisis. We have witnessed housing conditions deteriorate, rental prices skyrocket, and homeownership slip further and further from the realm of possibility for most of the population.

Did you know?

  • According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and data from the 2016 Census – over 3400 households in SSM are in core housing need: adequacy (repair), suitability (crowding), or affordability.
  • Provincial policy dictates that individuals should only be using 30% of their income on housing. For single individuals working a full-time minimum wage job, that is approximately $600 per month. Available units (apartments, semi-detached homes, fully detached homes, and townhouses) listed in SSM are priced anywhere from $900-$2500 plus utilities. This leaves people paying between 45-125% of their income on housing alone (depending on need/family size)
  • One significant contribution to the market rent increases we have seen can relate to individuals from southern Ontario. Many homes have been purchased by folks in southern Ontario and, in turn, they have raised the rent significantly.
  • The housing prices in SSM have become unattainable for most people. The average cost for a home in SSM increased by 44.6% from last year (SooToday, 2021) and only continues to rise. The current average cost for a single-family dwelling is over $275,000 (The Canadian Real Estate Association, n.d.)
  • Families with two incomes that make less than $16.16 each per hour are living in financial stress. In April of 2020, the NORDIK study revealed that families who make less than $59,000 a year (combined or independently) are at significant risk for unmet basic needs (food, housing, transportation, etc.) (Della-Mattia, 2020)

Market Rental Costs

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation releases the average rent prices each year. When you move into an apartment, there is a certain percentage the landlord can increase the rent by each year.

I will use myself as an example. I currently pay $899 for a 2-bedroom apartment with a balcony. This price seems very fair and very reasonable. What people do not understand is that I have lived there since 2013. My rent has only gone up a little at a time each year. Other apartments in the same building are currently being rented for over $1200 (Kijiji Canada, 2021)

The following is what CMHC reports in contrast to a little social experiment where I asked folks to share what they were paying for rent in the same years: 

CMHC ReportSocial Experiment Data
2014: $819/month
2016: $873/month
2018: $968/month
2019: $915/month
2020: $927/month  
2014: $872.50
2016: $950
2018: $ 917.22
2019: $ 937.27
2020: $1080.94

Regardless of what the CMHC data (or even my social experiment data) shows, so many folks in our community are in core housing need

How Habitat Helps

Founded in 2002, Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie and Area (HFHSSMA) is working hard to address the urgent need for safe and affordable housing in our community while promoting homeownership as a means of helping families escape the cycle of poverty. With our Affordable Homeownership Program, families can purchase a home with zero downpayment, no interest, and geared-to-income mortgage payments set at 30% of their household income. Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

This holiday season, show your support for HFHSSMA and our community:

  1. Shop/donate – Visit the ReStore on 32 White Oak Drive and purchase or donate some new or gently used items!
  2. Volunteer – we can always use the extra help! Learn more at habitatsault.ca/volunteer
  3. Donate – 100% of every dollar donated goes right into our Affordable Homeownership Program – no administration, just building homes! Donate now at habitatsault.ca/donate
  4. Support – Engage with Habitat on any of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) and help spread the word about our mission!