October 18, 2021

Protesters came together for a ’round two’ last weekend at City Hall in Waterloo, urging action in addressing Canada’s housing crisis.

“Housing is a basic human right, and it’s a foundation for us to build the rest of our lives,” said Layla Morrison, a DJ, audio engineer, and co-organizer of last Saturday’s protest.

‘Round one’ was last month, but protesters are disappointed with the progress made so far.

Protesters this time had three main demands on their minds; to build more houses, improve social housing, and to put an end to housing speculation.

Morrison has seen firsthand the effects of the housing crisis; she has been homeless and underhoused before.

“Everything else is harder to manage when you don’t know where you’re going to bed at night,” she said.

Jennifer Murdoch, manager of Housing Programs and Development in Waterloo Region, said from April 2020 to July 2021, more than 1,800 individuals were supported by emergency shelters and over 200 households were permanently housed.

Chronic homelessness increased by 34 per cent between November 2020 and May 2021.

Man holding poster
Kevin White holds a sign at the Waterloo housing protest last weekend. Photo by Celeste McCarthy.

Recent changes in Canada’s housing market have affected everyone from buyers and renters, to the homeless and displaced. With Waterloo Region’s population expected to continue growing, it is quite possible the Region hasn’t seen the worst of it yet.

Students looking for housing can also feel the effect of this, with the demand rising, while the supply is simply not enough.

Higher housing costs can result in higher rent. On top of tuition and other expenses, this could be an outcome that many students can’t afford.

“We need to be working in all of the different planes to make sure that we’re creating a holistic system,” said Murdoch.

There are housing plans green-lit by Waterloo Region. These include a five-year plan to build 2,500 new affordable housing units and a 10-year housing and homelessness plan.

Still, some are worried that these plans aren’t permanent fixes.

“They’re all band aids,” said Morrison. “They’re not going to solve the problem, just based off of the numbers.”

Housing in Waterloo Region is an election issue, generally because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on jobs and income.

“Our [affordable housing] wait-list has increased significantly throughout the pandemic,” Murdoch said.

The protesters then ask; which party will pay?

“The city needs to advocate for the funding [from] the federal and provincial governments as hard as we are here now,” Morrison said, highlighting the countless hours organizers put in for these protests.

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