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LETTER: It’s crazy how broken our system is right now

Habitat CEO says the cost of living isn't really well understood by those of us who got into housing before inflation took hold
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The following Op-Ed was submitted by Phil Mills, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region:

Is anyone else feeling like you can’t stretch a dollar the way you once did?

I’m not that old, but even I remember when gas was less than a dollar a litre. Back when toonie Tuesday meant you could buy something for a toonie and the items at a dollar store were actually a dollar.

But that certainly isn’t the world we live in right now.

I’ve never had as many conversations as I have lately about the cost of food. We are all feeling that grocery bill pinch. From daily staples to school snacks to Kraft Dinner for goodness’ sake. It has all just become so expensive!

And to be fair, I’m not breaking any new ground here. We all know that life is more expensive. I don’t think, however, we’ve done a good job of really understanding what this change means in reality for most people.

When we consider the housing crisis, I think we still haven’t grasped the extent of it’s impact. It’s not just low-income earners. It’s folks making wages that 10 years ago would have been not just stable but aspirational for many.

According to the Waterloo Region Association of Realtors, the average sale price for a residential property was $806,279 in March.

To afford the payments at that price while adhering to our affordability threshold of 30 per cent of your income, you would need a household income exceeding $190,000.00.

If you’re a nurse making $80,000 a year looking for a home today, you likely need help. The same if you’re a teacher, a welder, an insurance agent, and so on and so on. If you make $100,000, you probably also need help, which sounds crazy. And in some ways, it is crazy. It’s crazy how broken our system is right now.

If you’re like me, you were lucky and able to buy a home before everything started to break.

If you bought a house before prices got out of hand and interest rates skyrocketed, you’re living in a different world than those who didn’t.

While we are all feeling the impact of rising prices, I think a lot of people simply haven’t considered in real terms what is happening for those who bought or started to rent recently.

Current grocery costs will certainly hit differently for those new to the housing market. Even those with stable incomes who never anticipated struggling to afford food may find it a genuine concern when factoring in current housing costs.

When addressing housing issues, we must acknowledge the true extent of the problem, which surpasses our initial perceptions. The need for support extends beyond those traditionally associated with it to encompass individuals in professions once deemed stable, such as nurses, teachers, and tradespeople.

Gone are the days of things for a dollar at the dollar store, but so are the days where a good job was enough to afford housing.

Phil Mills,
CEO of Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region