09/09/2014 05:02 EDT | Updated 11/09/2014 05:59 EST

Ontario Affordable Housing Wait List Hits Record High

Andrew Francis Wallace via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 5: Amanda Murtagh poses with her dog 9 year-old Pit Bull/Boxer mix named Bo, September 5, 2014. Murtagh, who has been on Toronto affordable housing waiting list for almost 5 years, says she is currently paying more than half of her income on rent in an Etobicoke lakeshore bachelor apartment. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The waiting list for affordable housing in Ontario is now at a record high, according to a report released today by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONHPA).

According to the report, 165,069 households in the province are currently waiting for subsidized housing — the highest since the ONHPA started collecting data in 2003.

Sharad Kerur, ONPHA’s executive director, says the number of households on the list started rising during the recession — and it just keeps going up.

"This is one of the first times we've seen it in a number of years actually skyrocket," Kerur said. "People's incomes aren’t keeping up with the pace of overall housing costs."

Additionally, Kerur says tenants already in social housing are staying there longer and the number of new units being built falls dramatically short of demand.

‘It’s gonna go up again’

Toronto resident Blair Caldwell recently joined the growing ranks of people waiting for subsidized housing in Ontario.

He lost his job as a forklift driver after a heart attack two years ago, and spends nearly two thirds of his income every month on rent.

"It's been going up, sure it's gonna go up again," he said.

Ontario's worst wait times for subsidized housing are in the GTA — 8.39 years in the Regional Municipality of Peel, 7.57 years in the Regional Municipality of York and 6.67 years in the City of Toronto.

But those are average wait times. Single people like Caldwell have to wait even longer.

"I was told nine years," he said.

But Caldwell isn’t sure he’ll live that long.

The provincial and federal governments have promised to spend $1.6 billion on affordable housing over the next five years, but the ONHPA says governments would need to spend nearly that much every year for the next decade to meet the demand.

"These numbers show that the affordable housing crunch is not going to be solved by the current approach," Kerur said.

"We need a multi-pronged approach that includes rent supplements, housing allowances, new housing stock and repairs to existing buildings."


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