About 3,500 people are sitting on the centralized wait list for social housing in Simcoe County.
This week at the Simcoe County Housing Corporation Board meeting, changes to the application process for affordable housing units were unveiled, aiming to make the process more fair for all applicants when it comes to choosing who gets any newly available units.
Greg Bishop, general manager of social and community services with the County of Simcoe, says the 147 units in Collingwood’s Second and High Street build were a big deal, and lessons learned during that application process have led to the changes.
“A first-come-first-served (process) became a bit of an access issue for some people, because perhaps some had better resources to apply,” said Bishop. “So we looked at other practices... in other municipalities as well to see what they’ve done in affordable housing.”
Bishop says some municipalities are doing random draws, but the County of Simcoe is opting to switch to a hybrid model.
The new process will see the county reaching out to applicants on the social housing centralized wait list first once a building is approved for construction, prioritizing them based on how long they’ve been on the list.
The main difference between affordable and social housing is affordable housing has a set rent amount regardless of who applies, whereas social housing is rent geared to income.
“If you’re looking at need... let’s say someone can only afford $200 or $300 a month. We can’t operate the (affordable housing) buildings at that amount, and we’re not allowed to have the rents that low. They have to be at 70 per cent of market rent (according to the province),” said Bishop.
The reason the county will now opt to reach out to the social housing wait list first is because finances can change, and some who may have only been eligible for social housing when they applied, might now be able to afford the affordable housing units.
“Sometimes people’s life circumstances change, which is why we want them to put their name on the wait list,” he said.
Bishop says that if people have difficulty being able to afford the rent of affordable housing units, there are programs through the county where they can apply for a rent-geared-to-income unit or apply for a rent subsidy to help make up the difference.
Once the wait-list applicants are processed, the tenants of remaining affordable housing units will be selected by random draw from applications submitted by the cut-off date.
“This new approach is more people-centred. I think it’s going to give more people an opportunity to feel like they had access for a larger period of time,” said Bishop. “We’re looking at ways to make it more equitable.”
Five per cent of units in any future affordable housing builds by the County of Simcoe will also be set aside for Housing First clients, who have been deemed to be at a greater risk for chronic homelessness.
Now that the new process was approved at the council table on Tuesday, Bishop says county staff will be getting to work to contact people on the wait list concerning the Wasaga Beach and Tay Township affordable housing developments.
Both projects are currently at varying stages of construction.
For information on affordable and social housing in the County of Simcoe, click here.