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Friday, October 24, 2008

Housing First

Housing First

The Toronto model and Housing First in general is actually in a way no different than what I put forth in Nanaimo back in 2002 when the initial Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative funding of $800,000 was awarded to the Salvation Army for its all in one complex that proposed 20 Shelter Beds and 5 Transitional units. At the time the allocation of that funding would have resulted in the eventual closure of Samaritan House, a 20 bed shelter, due to provincial infrastructure funding being moved to the S/A upon opening of theirs.

What I put forth was the idea of taking half, $400,000.00, and purchasing with 20% down-payments 25 houses. After renovations 20 would house 5 individuals per home and 5 would be duplexed for families. Rents based on Social Assistance rates of the time would have been adequate to pay off the mortgage, maintenance costs as well as hiring 6 support staff. 100 plus people housed with one time only funding. A novel concept that was doable at the time and many thought was great, alas it went nowhere.

In 2006 in response to a Daily news story, The cost to end homelessness by Derek Spalding, Published: Friday, December 22, 2006, my idea reared its head once again.
The story talked about the cost of 57million in construction costs and 14million annually for the continuum of support services. Thinking this a bit excessive I penned the following sending it to the newspapers, City Council, MLA’s and MP’s. I think this quite informative when one looks to what Nanaimo’s latest response to homelessness will cost. When looking at homelessness there is not one means of providing homes but there is one answer and that is to provide homes.
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February 10, 2007


Regarding the story, The Cost to End Homelessness – Nanaimo Daily News, December 22/06, there is no doubt that if the political will was there homelessness not only in Nanaimo but the whole of Canada could be eradicated. As a person who has worked with the homeless and advocated for more affordable housing, I also recognize that in doing so we must look at the burden to taxpayers. With no disrespect to those who came up with the figure of $57 million, as well as the $14 million in ancillary costs per year, to house the 300 homeless taken from the last homeless census in Nanaimo, I believe it can be accomplished for far less. Firstly careful perusal of the census shows the actual number of absolute homeless as closer to 160, I will however continue to use 300 as a basis for calculations.

By my estimates it could be done for roughly $17.5 million, be sustainable requiring no more funding, create employment, as well as allowing for more monies to be put into more affordable housing. Take the 300 people divide by 5 (number of non-related people allowed in single family zoning) = 60 multiply by $275,000 (average cost of a home) = $16.5m, add $1m for Reno ’s = $17.5m, a far cry from $57m.

Now take the 300 again and multiply by $325 (shelter amount allocated by MEIA) = $97,500 multiply by 12 (months of the year) = $1.17m. For the sake of argument we'll say the average support worker makes approximately $34,000 per year multiply this by 15(a reasonable number of workers) = $510,000 plus $100,000 admin = $610,000 leaving $560,000 for taxes, maintenance etc. of the buildings.

Understanding that the BC governments own studies show a savings of between 8 -12,000 dollars a year per person; if the 300 homeless are provided housing the government would save between 2.4 – 3.6 million dollars per year. This would pay off the initial investment of $17.5m in as few as 5 years.

One could also for the cost of between 1.8m and 2.2m dollars per year place the 300 homeless in existing rental accommodations, single and family. This in itself, if the government is saving up to $3.6m, would cost the government of BC nothing, actually adding between .2 and $1.2m to their coffers.

Locally Kiwanis is building a 45 unit seniors complex for the cost of $6m through a secured loan from the province. Build six and problem solved for a mere $36m.

Looking at the ancillary costs of $14m, divide by 300 = $46,667. Given that amount anyone could live quite well. Taken further divide $14m by 1200 = $11,667. This would give 1200 people almost twice what is earned on social assistance and slightly less than that earned yearly on minimum wage.

Canada and BC studies have shown for years there is a monetary benefit to housing the homeless. Once housed and connected to the right services the vast majority of the homeless would be capable of self sufficiency within a year.
These are but a few examples of what could be done if the political will and money were there. While there is no doubt the latter is, a $13 billion surplus federally and $1.3 billion in BC, it is the former that seems unattainable. Perhaps the financial cost might be relatively high to begin with but as it stands now the Human Cost is incalculable.

Gordon W. Fuller - Social Advocate

1 comment:

Allium said...

Seriously Gord, I'm very hopeful you get elected in this municipal election. You have so much to offer Nanaimo.