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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Make housing a priority in 2024

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Feb 26, 2024

Youth everywhere in the country are in the trenches and will most likely continue to struggle in 2024. Canada is currently facing a housing crisis marked by soaring prices, limited affordability and growing homelessness. The situation is most pronounced in major cities where many of our youth have to relocate and where housing demand has outstripped supply, creating a substantial affordability gap. Younger generations find it challenging to become homeowners due to high down payment requirements and escalating mortgage costs and interest rates. 

The rental market is not exempt from challenges. The average rent for an apartment in Montreal increased by 8.5% in 2023 and by 16% in Gatineau, affecting Crees who have left the region because of school or because of the lack of housing in communities. Even municipalities near inland communities, like Chibougamau, have vacancy rates below 0%, and are unable to house the number of people who have moved out of the communities. In Chibougamau, most of the homeless folks are Crees.

Shortage of affordable rental units has intensified the struggle for Canadians to find suitable housing, leading to higher rents and housing insecurity. Homelessness rates have concurrently risen, with visible increases in individuals and families lacking stable housing. The profile of people experiencing homelessness is changing. We tend to picture the stereotypical homeless person as someone who battles mental health issues and disabilities. But this doesn’t reflect the reality in homeless shelters, where we are seeing more families, more employed individuals on minimum wage, and more youth. 

The challenges I listed are particularly pronounced for those in entry-level jobs or precarious employment situations as limited job security and lower wages can exacerbate difficulties in saving for down payments or meeting rent obligations, amplifying the struggle for housing stability among the youth demographic.

If the situation persists, it won’t only impact individual aspirations for youth but also the broader social and economic fabric of the country, including our Cree communities where more than 50% of the population are below the age of 35. 

Making the housing crisis a priority is a key element to our future economic growth and self-determination. Bands and entities should stop jeopardizing young people’s livelihood and stop treating the youth as a fringe demographic in their budget planning. 

Housing is a human right and a social determinant to health. You cannot thrive in education, career and goal setting without stable and proper housing. Housing is at the root of everything.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.