Due to a lack of resources and capacity, our rural communities are missing an integral part of the housing continuum. Rural Canada has a critical shortage of affordable housing options, but this issue has not received the same attention as it has in urban centres. Without affordable housing, many small communities cannot prevent homelessness or help people through the housing continuum. This negatively impacts the affected individuals, who may become chronic users of emergency shelters, or relocated to larger centres, removing them from their familiar environment and any support system they might have. If the homeless migrate to larger centres in search of services, they may discover they must be homeless for a year before they are entitled to access many services, meaning they can easily become victims or turn to crime in the interim. As well, this removal of people from the local rural population negatively impacts the community and its ability to grow. Finally, the lack of affordable housing negatively impacts other groups and individuals, such as business owners who offer lower wage jobs, seniors transitioning to supportive care, families, disenfranchised youth, and people with mental health issues and addictions.
The inventory of affordable housing in Canada’s rural communities must be increased. One of the primary barriers to creating affordable housing in rural communities is the lack of funding and capacity to plan and execute large-scale, long-term projects, and to create the partnerships necessary to ensure the project is cost-effective and sustainable. Small communities often do not have the resources and expertise to go through the lengthy and complex processes (including conducting research and securing funding) that are necessary to build a multi-unit housing project.
The ARDN has been collaborating with a number of rural communities and community-based organizations to develop strategic partnerships among stakeholders struggling to address the shortage of affordable housing. The ARDN has started a multi-stakeholder strategy to create more rural-based affordable housing with a goal to promote new partnerships across Canada, leverage existing resources, and allow rural communities to address a growing problem instead of downloading it to the urban centres.