Affordability crisis impacting North Durham communities

by The Standard | Podcast June 23rd, 2022

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

NORTH DURHAM: With high gas prices, grocery costs continuing to be expensive for most families, and a lack of affordable housing, many residents in North Durham are having trouble making ends meet.

Mona Emond, Executive Director of North House, has seen a skyrocketing increase in their client list, in just a year. Based in Uxbridge but serving all of North Durham, North House is a charity which works to prevent homelessness by connecting clients with a number of supports, programs and assistance.

“If we look at our client base in May 2021 compared to May 2022, our caseload has increased 156 percent. We’ve added three new housing workers to help with the huge increase in clientele,” she told The Standard.

Ms. Emond’s current concern is the lack of affordable housing for North Durham residents.

“The biggest concern is, there is no available housing, much less affordable housing. People cannot afford units [which] do come up for rent, and this, along with the cost of living, is contributing to the homelessness issue in the Region. People are now having to choose between paying rent or feeding themselves. For people who are struggling to pay their rent, they are at risk of losing their housing, and for those who have been in their home for a while [they] are most likely paying a reasonable rent. If evicted, they will most certainly not find anything in that price range today. Not only are we, at North House, trying to find housing for people, we are also trying to retain as many tenancies as we can, so people can stay in their homes and not enter into homelessness.”

Couple this with rising food and gas prices and local residents are having a tough time balancing their regular costs of living.

“These rising costs are making it almost impossible for people to support themselves. It is forcing them to choose between rent or putting food on the table for their family. We are very fortunate to have some really great food banks throughout the north [which] help to support the need for food,” Ms. Emond said.

Still, the rising cost of living is putting increased pressure on North Durham’s food banks.

“We have seen an increase in the number of clients since Christmas. We have new clients signing up every week. Our clients are really struggling with the cost of food and gas,” Operation Scugog Chairperson Karen Teed stated in an email. “Food donations are always down during the summer, [but now] even more so with the cost of groceries. We have more clients asking if we can help with a gas card.”

For those who wish to donate to Operation Scugog, Ms. Teed has a list of suggested items, such as apple juice and juice boxes, granola bars, cereal, canned fruit, crackers, and cookies. Household items such as toilet paper, shampoo, laundry soap, toothbrushes and tampons are also in need at the local food bank.