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Durham Housing Forum,
Building Community - One Room at a Time

Recommendations Arising from the November 22, 2005 Housing Forum

On November 22, 2005 more than 100 people representing social service agencies, health care providers, police services, private and not for profit landlords, government agencies, and elected officials gathered at the Whitby Centennial Building to identify issues and make recommendations related to the housing options available to low-income single people in Durham Region. 

Through a series of workshops and presentations by key note speakers, participants examined the housing barriers faced by single people marginalized by poverty.  These barriers include affordability, lack of suitable rental accommodation, and insufficient personal support services to ensure individuals with support needs are able to sustain their tenancy.  Each workgroup produced recommendations to improve the housing situation of single people in Durham Region.  The following recommendations are being forwarded to the Durham Advisory Committee on Homelessness (DACH) for agency consideration in future planning:

Developing More Affordable Housing Opportunities for Single People:

  1. In order to ensure new development is welcomed by the community, sponsoring groups need to thoughtfully engage with the community.  This includes strategically identifying local champions for the project, including faith leaders.  Proponents need to create opportunities for constructive, objective dialogue with neighbours prior to mandatory community meetings and bring information about the objectives of the sponsor organization and the project to the community.  Resources are available to help address public myths about declining property values and rising crime rates in neighbourhoods where "social" housing is located.

  2. Given the aging of the general population and the growing number of older women and people with developmentally disabilities who require affordable housing, we need to ensure these emerging service users are provided with an opportunity to shape the design of new living spaces.

  3. The design of single room dwellings must include informal shared meeting spaces to help reduce tenant isolation.

  4. The confusing array of funding bodies, eligibility criteria and application processes needs to be addressed by creating a single resource point in the community for information on affordable housing development tools.

  5. All levels of government are required to make contributions in order to create truly affordable places to live.  These contributions can be in the form of staff support as well as financial incentives.

Encouraging Safe Living Environments

  1. Safety in housing is a primary issue for seniors, women, and the disabled.  Careful consideration of how to meet their safety needs must be incorporated in the development of new living spaces for this population. 

  2. Safe living environments are created when all parties (landlord, tenant, support agency, family) take responsibility for doing their share to make the space safe.

  3. Rooming House Operators need to actively engage with Police Services and Planning officials around strategies to make their facilities safer places for both tenants and the immediate neighbourhood.

Developing Partnerships Between Landlords, Tenants, and Service Providers

  1. The concept of support services that are tailored to meet the needs of the individual, rather than the individual meeting the needs of the service, is a primary shift in service philosophy.   Agencies are encouraged to seek out opportunities to engage people in defining their service needs and leveraging resources to meet these needs in new and innovative ways.

  2. The Wraparound approach meets this objective and should be supported in its development as a service tool for individuals and families in need.

  3. Landlords want support from agencies to engage with tenants in resolving issues like rent payment delays, property damage, and appropriate use of common space.

  4. Tenants require rules and personal support in order to successfully retain their shared living arrangements.  Support service agencies are available to facilitate more stable living arrangements for tenants.  However, more opportunities need to be created for support service providers to engage with landlords and help develop new models of collaborative support.

Coordination of Information and Support

  1. A single entry point needs to be created in the Region to provide information regarding rooming house regulations and tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities.

  2. In order to reduce the "maze" effect of service delivery, agencies need to transform their services so that there is a conscious move to service integration and less duplication of program delivery. 

  3. Information needs to be provided to tenants to help them assert their rights and exercise responsibility for contributing to safer places to live.