Muskoka is in a housing crisis and while there are a multitude of factors contributing to this issue, one thing is clear: people are suffering. Which is why Circles® Muskoka – a community-based poverty reduction initiative led by YWCA Muskoka – has launched a new podcast series called, Walls Within: Diary of a Housing Crisis. The intention of the podcast is to raise awareness to inspire action in the community.
The Walls Within podcast explores the housing crisis in Muskoka from the different perspectives of those most affected and features in-depth, personal and vulnerable stories of struggle, hope and overcoming obstacles in the search for a safe, affordable and fulfilling place to call home.
“This project seeks to illuminate the real stories of Muskoka residents and how the housing crisis impacts them directly,” said Liz Angell, Circles Muskoka Coordinator. “By centering the voices of those most impacted by the housing crisis, we hope to offer a perspective to the broader Muskoka community that is largely missing from the narrative.”
On the individual level, housing is a basic need, but it is also a key requirement for the wealth and health of the overall economy. Rental rates and housing costs have been increasing at rates that cannot keep up with local salaries. The price for an entry-level house in Muskoka pre-pandemic would have cost about $400,000. A Royal LePage report cites the average house price is expected to rise by 13% this year, to an average of $737,890.
The rental market is also grim. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reports that the average rental unit in Huntsville is $1033, but anyone looking for a place to rent would tell you otherwise. The options are few and far between and you’d be challenged to find a suitable space for less than $1500 per month. Two-bedroom units run upwards of $1800 a month. Listings go fast and are competitive.
Finding a spot with rent geared to income is even harder to come by. There are 468 subsidized housing units in Muskoka and, as of 2017, there were 640 applicants on the waitlist. That translates to an average of 6 to 8 years of waiting.
“There are so many misconceptions and stigmas surrounding homelessness. I want to break the stigma and help people realize it can happen to people you would least expect: your family, your friends, people that you work with, ” said Tracy Nickles, Muskoka resident who was interviewed on the Walls Within Podcast. “I am hoping that sharing my story will bring awareness and understanding to the many faces living in fear of being homeless.”
Walls Within was born out of group discussions within Circles, a community collaborative, led by YWCA Muskoka, committed to the reduction of poverty by harnessing the power of relationship. The program matches low-income families (Circle Leaders) and individuals with community volunteers (Circle Allies) to form relationships across income groups, find solutions, and build a support system to help individuals and families move forward out of poverty. The group discusses barriers that impede the path forward for Circle Leaders and housing the agreed topic.
Episode one of the Walls Within podcast is available now on Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, Stitcher, RSS. Find the links and additional information about housing in Muskoka here: www.circlesmuskoka.com/podcast