How can the cost of housing impact individuals and families?
If housing consumes too much of a household’s income, individuals or families can be forced to make difficult decisions that can affect their personal health. This may involve:
- sacrifices in the quality of one’s diet;
- sacrifices in care for health or dental issues;
- households forced to work extra hours to cover housing costs; or
- sharing of housing leading to overcrowded living conditions.
Households that move frequently due to high housing costs can be challenged to maintain social networks and take advantage of employment opportunities. Children in such households are particularly vulnerable to stress, health problems, and educational disadvantages that ultimately perpetuate the poverty cycle.
How can the cost of housing impact businesses?
High housing costs can impact the economic success of a community. Residents with high housing costs will have less discretionary money to spend on goods and services. That means less money being spent on local businesses and less opportunity for business growth. In addition, if housing is too expensive it can be difficult for businesses to recruit average-income households into a community. For example, a manufacturing facility that relies on low or average wages will want to be located in a community where housing is affordable based on the pay it offers to workers.
How can housing impact newcomers?
Immigrants, refugees and other newcomers can be impacted by the cost and availability of housing when arriving in a community. A 2009 report by the United Way, Hidden in Plain Sight: housing challenges of newcomers in Calgary, found that newcomers experienced difficulties with housing for multiple reasons including low income, lack of employment, language barriers, age of children, lack of references and identification documents, family size, ethnicity/race, and a lack of credit history. The report also found that the majority of newcomers were not familiar with landlord and tenant laws.
These challenges create barriers for newcomers to successfully integrate into a community. A lack of affordable and available rental housing can impede a community’s ability to grow through the attraction and retention of newcomers. Municipalities may consider educating landlords on cultural issues to minimize the potential for discrimination in housing rentals. AUMA offers a variety of tools for creating a more welcoming and inclusive community, which may support local initiatives in housing newcomers.
Combined, these issues can lead to various degrees of social dysfunction within a community and ultimately impact the quality of life for all residents. Citizens without safe and permanent housing are shown to increase the cost of policing, bylaw enforcement, and the court and health care systems. These are important factors of which municipal leaders should be aware. The provision of safe, stable and adequate housing can strengthen a community while reducing the high costs to other government services.