Muskoka & Parry Sound Housing Consultation is putting Tenants in the Housing Crisis Drivers Seat

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Agatha Farmer

The Muskoka and Parry Sound Housing Consultation is a free seminar focused specifically on tenant/renter needs to provide frontline solutions to the housing crisis.

Heather Marchildon is the facilitator of the workshop and the event hosted through the Lake Country Community Legal Clinic on Tuesday March 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Summit Centre in Huntsville. The idea for the 1 day meeting stemmed from a similar Sudury housing conference.

"We are gathering information about the most common housing hurdles people face in the region ... this way people can see that they are not alone in this. We need more tenants involved ... there are plenty of people who are tenants who need a movement," she said.

The Lake Country Community Legal Clinic shared the following message about the seminar on their Facebook page.

"Looking forward to hearing everyone's story of unsafe and lack of housing, frustration and uncertainty with the housing crisis. We'll be working to identify the most common challenges we've all faced. Please register today and bring a friend who has their story too. A unique opportunity to have your experiences (anonymously) shared in a report to the government. Come on out and have a great day of sharing. E-mail to register."

Marchildon believes that to understand and adequately address the problem, the driver of the solution has to be people who live the housing crisis reality daily - tenants.

Marchildon has been a community activist and social program facilitator for over two decades in Bracebridge. A good amount of her knowledge stems from having experienced homelessness as well as rental issues.

"I had to go on Ontario Works at one point and I was receiving $565/ month and my rent was over $700 ... thanks goodness my car was paid for," she said.

Marchildon added that while she is currently on the Muskoka Housing Taskforce, she stopped attending Muskoka district council meetings because after 25 years of participating in housing forums she has lost faith in the system as after all these years "nothing got done."

She calls the assistance from district bureaucratic lip service.

"We need to bring other community partners in ... people on the frontlines know what's actually happening out there," she said.

Marchildon is advocating for basic needs such as further development of regional transportation systems and improvement in community mental health care to further address housing a whole.

The goal of the March 10 seminar is to compose a solution based report from tenants/renters of Muskoka and send to various levels of government.

"We all live in the same community and ultimatley we are all impacted in one way or another by the housing crisis," Marchildon said.

Muskoka Housing and Homelessness Stats:

- 50 percent of Muskoka residents cannot afford 1-3 bedrooms

- 50 percent of Muskoka households earn less than $39,000 annually.

- To rent the average priced house in the region a Muskoka resident would need to have $100,000 in income. - A very low vacancy rate in the district of 1.7 percent, in a healthy economy a rate north of 3 percent is generally seen.

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