Canada is facing an affordable-housing crisis that is leading to homelessness. The current federal numbers suggest we have 235,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness, but I think they are lowballing that number; and sadly, this is how funding is determined.
Consensus is that the numbers started to grow in the 1990s with the responsibility for affordable-housing and homelessness programs being shifted from the federal government to the provinces, and now some provinces are shifting these responsibilities to municipalities.
In creating the Homes For Heroes Foundation (www.h4hf.ca) charity, we have built and continue to build tiny home villages for veterans experiencing homelessness. Our Veterans Villages have wraparound social support services, which is key to the success of the program. The program is being deployed across Canada and is working to take veterans off the streets and into housing, through support programs and then graduating the clients into more permanent housing, full-time careers, and making room for the next veteran in need of support.
Tiny homes can be an inexpensive and quickly deployable solution to help ease the affordable-housing crisis Canada is facing. Tiny home villages can assist with seniors housing, student housing, workforce housing, immigrant housing and much more; but municipalities need to work with developers, ease zoning restrictions and the “not in my backyard” narrative must be addressed. I have seen zero research that shows that property values go down with an affordable-housing project placed in a neighbourhood. Yet, municipalities continue to bend to this narrative.
Further, Canadians should be encouraged to put tiny homes in their backyards. These could be used to house an elderly parent who may not be ready to move into a seniors’ facility, or to rent out for secondary income. This then frees up other rentals in the community for demographics for which tiny homes are not a solution. But again, our federal, provincial and municipal governments need to step up in support of tiny home builds through tax incentives for the builders and homeowners, zoning changes need to take place and again nimbyism needs to be addressed.
We have roughly 15 million homeowners in Canada. If two per cent of Canadians put a tiny home in their backyard, we would have 300,000 new housing units. That would go a long way to address the affordable-housing crisis Canada is facing. In Canada, it costs governments and taxpayers roughly $80,000 a year for someone to be homeless, but it costs $40,000 to have them in a home. Not only is housing the most economical solution, it is the most humane solution.
Dave Howard is the founder of the Homes For Heroes Foundation.
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