Current Housing Need in Niagara

Current Social Service Use

Affordable Housing

A total of 6,016 households (10,641 individuals) are on the affordable housing waitlist as of Dec. 31, 2013 (seniors - 2,240; households with no dependents - 1,765; families - 2,011). Within the past three years, the waitlist has grown by 9 per cent with the biggest increase coming from seniors and families. Wait times range from 1.25 years to almost ten years, and vary according to the location of the units and the number of selections made by the household. The current stock of over 7500 affordable housing units is not keeping pace with the growth of the wait list. Furthermore, just under half of the current affordable housing stock is between 30- and 60 years old. This means a growing amount of resources will need to be invested in maintaining the current stock and cannot be used to create new affordable housing.

3.1 Niagara Housing Waiting List, 2003 - 2013

Source: Niagara Regional Housing

In 2013 626 households were housed. Despite this the number of households currently on the waiting list for affordable housing continues to be a challenge. Since 2002 the waiting list in Niagara has increased by 42 per cent. The greatest increase started during the 2009 recession and has left a lasting impact on the affordable housing system.

Transitional Housing

3.2 Number of Households & Individuals Accessing Transitional Housing Services

Source: Niagara Region Community Services Consolidated Homelessness Prevention Program, Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and Homelessness Partnering Strategy Reports

Transitional housing is an intermediary housing option between emergency shelter and stable housing. It provides residents with a supportive environment to live while they re-establish themselves in the community. A significant increase in the number of individuals seeking transitional housing services was seen just after the 2009 recession. While the recession has ended, its effects on the community are continuing to be seen and felt by housing service providers.

2014 shows a decrease in the number of individuals accessing supported transitional housing, but it should be noted that a request-for-proposal occurred that year with contracts taking effect July 1, 2014. This resulted in a change in the funding source for some pre-existing projects and affected the data indicators (i.e. households or individuals) that were collected. Furthermore, service providers have improved their data reporting practices to ensure outcomes as a result of funded services are submitted.

Shelter Services

3.3 Number of Shelter Beds Available in Niagara Region

Demographic Number of Beds
Immigrants and Refugees 16
Individual (16 years+) 30
Individual (18 years+) 40
Men (18 years+) 22
Victims of Domestic Violence 64
Women and Children 54
Youth 20
Total 246

Source: Niagara Region Community Services, 2015

In Niagara there are a total of 246 shelter beds that provide services to a variety of target groups, including victims of violence, youth and recent immigrants and refugees:

  • Regionally and Provincially-funded homeless shelters: 11 shelters with a total of 157 permanent beds and an additional 25 beds during the winter season
  • Provincially-funded Violence Against Women shelters: 3 shelters with 64 beds

Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the Province moved to a block-funding model for emergency shelters as part of its consolidation of programs related to homelessness. Most of Niagara's emergency shelters receive a combination of Provincial and Regional investments, but it is generally recognized that this funding is not sufficient to cover the total costs associated with operating a shelter.

Violence Against Women shelters are funded directly by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. These shelters receive a set amount of funding for the year regardless of the number of beds that are filled.

3.4 Emergency Shelter Usage, 2014

Source: Niagara Region Community Service

On average, 84 per cent of shelter beds were occupied nightly in 2014. This is a slight decrease from 2013 (86 per cent). Prior to the end of 2012, for several years Niagara had been experiencing a downward trend in its emergency shelter occupancy, suggesting that less fewer people in Niagara are in need of emergency shelter services and/or that they do not need to stay as long. It may also be a result of the movement towards supporting more services aimed at preventing homelessness, and the number of people accessing prevention and supported transitional housing services. However, Niagara experienced an increase in the number of individuals accessing shelter accommodations in 2014 (4,627) over previous years (4,516, in 2013, 4,428 in 2012 and 4,170 in 2011).

Since 2009 the average number of shelter stays by families has increased. Families stayed an average of 6.7 nights in a shelter in 2008, but stayed an average of 12 nights in 2011. The average stay in 2012 dropped slightly to 10.5, but 2013 saw a large increase over the previous year. Longer stays are not unexpected given the growth in demand by families for affordable housing, and high rent levels for family sized rental units.

Food Banks

3.5 Number of Individuals Accessing Food Banks in Ontario, 2008-2012

Source: Food Banks Canada: Hunger Count 2012

In Ontario between 2008 and 2012 food bank usage increased by 31.4 per cent. The majority of users, 88.2 per cent, are rental market or affordable housing tenants (Food Banks Canada: Hunger Count 2012). Many of the same individuals are in need of both affordable housing and food supports. Often they must decide between paying their rent and buying food. Approximately a third of the population using food banks in Ontario are children (A Legacy of Poverty? Addressing Cycles of Poverty and the Impact on Child Health in Niagara Region).


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