Dawn Mills is not sure she can afford school supplies for her daughter this year. She says that it may come down to a decision between fresh fruits and vegetables and school notebooks.
Mills, a Cambridge resident, is used to making these decisions. Due to her disability, she cannot work, and is on the Ontario Works social assistance program living off of just over $1,000 a month. But even with that assistance, the rising cost of living is making basic needs more and more unattainable.
“The cost of food, I’m pretty sure it’s risen, especially fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Mills. “Gas prices are almost $1.40 a litre, which makes it even tighter for me.”
A poll from Abacus Data cites cost of living as the No. 1 issue that Canadians are focused on with the upcoming Sept. 20 election. With Statistics Canada reporting that inflation rates have reached 3.7 per cent, the affordability crisis is only getting worse. The pandemic is a main factor in increasingly high inflation rates, with consumer spending bouncing back faster than production and transportation capacity, causing a surge in prices.
For many, housing in particular has become out of reach or hard to hold onto. Lori Brady can relate to this. Brady, who lives in Cambridge and has a disability and multiple health conditions that prevent her from working is on the Ontario Disability Support Program. Currently, she only gets $781 a month for housing, which forces her to turn to food banks just to keep dinner on the table.
During the pandemic, extra support was scarce. Brady received just an extra $100 during the pandemic while many people collected CERB and CRB, which pays more, Brady says.
“We’re not getting enough money to pay rent,” said Brady. “ODSP has not kept up with the rate of inflation ... I feel fortunate to have this apartment, but there’s still the stress everyday of not having enough.”
Most of the major federal parties are running on a platform of affordable housing, with the Conservatives promising to build 1 million homes in three years; the Liberals promising to build or preserve 1.4 million homes over the next four years, and the NDP promising to build 500,000 homes over the next 10 years.
But none of the parties have spoken about who would qualify for affordable housing, or how much would be set aside for people with physical or mental disabilities.
Lisa McVey, a single mom of two children who makes $50,000 a year who is struggling to afford her $2,100 a month apartment in Cambridge, says there has to be more control over how much housing is costing.
“I think what politicians need to do is have more rent-geared-to-income housing,” said McVey. “I’d love to know from politicians what affordable housing means to them, because my definition of affordable housing is probably different from someone who makes $100,000 a year.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After reading polls that cited the rising cost of living as the No. 1 issue on voters' minds, reporter Genelle Levy reached out to Waterloo Region residents to get their perspective on the rising cost of living.
Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times