Affordable Housing Must Be Designed With Accessibility In Mind

The Reena Community Residence

The article below is courtesy of The Globe & Mail (published March 18/16).

“We no longer look at housing as a problem. It is the solution.” That was the message that Member of Parliament Adam Vaughan brought to a recent public forum on affordable housing. And that change of perspective is welcome.

After decades of more or less ignoring this pressing social need, the federal government is poised to enact a new strategy on housing – and it will line up with a new law in Ontario, announced this week, that will allow municipalities to demand affordable housing from developers. This represents an opportunity to transform the lives of many citizens and, broadly, our cities. Vaughan signalled that the Liberal campaign promise of nearly $20-billion over 10 years for “social infrastructure” will help fund housing.

It has been two decades since Ottawa washed its hands of affordable housing, and Ontario has seen both the most acute need and a lack of local action. According to the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, there are more than 130,000 households on waiting lists for social housing across the country; about 90,000, or more than 160,000 people, are in Toronto alone.

The event at which Vaughan was speaking, and which I was moderating, at the Miles Nadal JCC in Toronto, translated that math into human terms. Vaughan – the pugnacious former Toronto city councillor who went to Ottawa pursuing a new agenda for urban Canada – was speaking to a group of housing advocates, municipal officials and accessibility activists.

They, echoing colleagues across the country, brought two forceful arguments: Affordable housing is acutely important for people with disabilities, and their needs have not been met.

[...] The forum also heard from Bryan Keshen, the CEO of Reena, an organization that provides support services to children and adults with developmental disabilities: his group had become developers to create an apartment building with supports. “Nobody else was going to do it,” he said. And some neighbours, in the suburban city of Vaughan, initially were not welcoming to what they perceived as an institution: “There’s a disconnect between what people say,” he explained, “and their actual willingness to live with people with disabilities.”

Reena serves people who have developmental disabilities. They need some degree of support to function in their daily lives – and benefit from a supportive environment. “I know that whenever we’re not the property manager, people get treated terribly … That’s why we get involved in building. I don’t think anyone else in planning housing even gets to that part of the population.” [...]

To view the full article click here.
Article Author: Alex Bozikovic

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