The following is a submitted letter to the editor. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Kingstonist.
I’ve been digging into Kingston’s housing situation for a few years. Admittedly, I’ve been more of a digital support member, but I did take part in supporting those at Belle Park and attended several of the Housing Committee’s Homeless and Housing open houses. Upon reading the recent letter regarding the Housing Committee, I can attest to seeing the same shoulders shrug.
If the current housing emergency in Kingston isn’t enough reason to answer this question then surely this emergency lockdown is. So much of our routines and yes, regulations have been altered, yet pausing this housing rule has not been considered? To clarify, in Ontario people in subsidized units can vacate said unit for 90 consecutive days without losing their subsidy. I’m assuming this rule was implemented to simplify things, but it also opens the door for manipulation. If life has taught me anything, it’s that humans are opportunistically brilliant.
My question to the Housing Committee almost two years ago was and is: Who keeps track of the 90 days? I asked because there has been an empty subsidized unit in my building for over two years. As temperatures drop and tents go up, this unit sits empty. How many others are empty too? In discussing this with my awesome city councillor and with housing, I’m told the unit is filled. How could this confusion have existed for two years?
As we know, Ford’s Ontario favors industry and big business. The 90 day rule does as well. When housing does tenancy checks, they ask the Landlord if the unit is filled. From the residential landlord perspective this situation is a win-win – full rent and zero wear and tear on the unit. The wait list for a subsidized unit lengthens. Why haven’t we paused or altered this 90 day rule to mitigate these issues and provide homes for the homeless? Is it not worthy of further investigation?
To echo the recent letter to the Kingstonist, there needs to be more oversight on residential companies. In 2013, our Prime Minister stated that a home is a human right, yet discrimination and harassment is far too common in the rental market. To research this divide, I joined a landlord forum on Reddit and it is clear how they see things. The tenant is the enemy and the landlord is generously providing a home for their fellow human, while most of those landlords view their rental properties as investments. You can see where and how the friction exists. Human rights should not be leniently-regulated and profitable industries!
In closing, we can all agree that the committee was created and its members united in hopes of fixing the problem. Yet, in Ford’s Ontario, the homeless is a demographic all its own. The emergency lockdown measures illustrate this well, showing us that this demographic is completely excluded from quarantine measures. Sad really, is this not systemic? The homeless demographic is now something you write regulation around versus something we aim to eliminate.
Cold and damp today, eh?
A concerned citizen,