Housing Security Policies

Housing is one of the most basic requirements for health. When people spend excessive amounts of income on housing, fewer resources are available for other health essentials.

Studies suggest affordable housing improves health outcomes by freeing up resources for nutritious food and other essentials, reducing stress and providing the stability for patients with chronic diseases to access and maintain the level of care they need.[i]

From a public health perspective, the most acute manifestation of the housing issue relates to homelessness. Homeless people have a range of chronic health problems due to their extreme poverty. They are less likely to receive adequate medical care and more likely to draw upon emergency medical services.[ii]

Recent efforts such as the Housing Matters BC and the expansion of the Rental Assistance Program and Homeless Outreach Program are to be commended and yet the need remains high.

BCAHL recommends the following policy options:

  • Income and Disability rates should adequately support those who are experiencing financial emergencies or face barriers to income through long-term unemployment. Moving ahead, BC can build a stronger system of support for persons with disabilities, special needs, children at risk, and seniors by ensuring income rates are based on, and keep pace with, the actual cost of living.
    • On affordable housing, income assistance rates should be informed by data on real market costs of rental housing – according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the BC average rental ranged from $1233 for a bachelor suite up to $2137 for a three-bedroom suite in 2021 (and this is much higher in the Metro-Vancouver area).
  • Adjust the Income and Disability Assistance shelter amounts so they are based on reasonable market rental costs.
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing.
  • The provincial government should work together and coordinate the efforts and investments of non-profit organizations, the private sector and other levels of government to ensure a full spectrum of housing for those in need, including affordable housing, supportive housing, social housing, emergency and transition housing.
  • Create a youth homelessness prevention strategy to eliminate youth homelessness including the creation of affordable,  supportive housing options for at-risk and homeless youth.
  • Develop a long-term, consolidated, comprehensive, interagency supportive Housing System for hard to house individuals, including those living with mental health problems and/or addictions.
  • Ensure that emergency, transition and affordable housing meet the needs of specific populations including women and children fleeing violence, families, seniors, youth and those with mental health problems and addictions.
  • Consider purchasing abandoned or neglected multi-family and apartment buildings to renovate and transfer the title from the provincial government to non-profit housing authorities.
  • Provide adequate follow-up support and housing for those leaving institutional care.

References:

[i] Lubell, Jeffrey, Rosalyn Crain, and Rebecca Cohen. 2007. The Positive Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health. Washington, D.C.: Center for Housing Policy and Enterprise Community Partners.

[ii] Caputo, T., et al. The Street Lifestyle.Health Canada,1999.

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