How COVID has affected homelessness and housing

PHOTO BY SARA SHEIKH / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY

COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives but there has been concern not only over the risks it poses to the healthcare system, but the potential side-effects it might have on communities. 

The economic downturn and the challenges that come with it have impacted  the homeless population, as well as the housing market in Brantford, and the intersection between the two of them.

Over the past few years, the price of housing has been increasing and the availability decreasing, said Jeff Thibodeau, a real estate broker and buyer with Redline Properties Inc.

Thibodeau said that COVID-19 has created the “perfect storm of demand versus supply imbalance.”

 This is because many prospective home sellers before the pandemic have now decided to wait temporarily until things begin to return to normal, thus decreasing the amount of houses for sale even more. 

To make things even more difficult, the price of housing has gone up dramatically in the past few years. 

“The average house in Brantford has gone up over $100,000 in the last 12 months,” said Thibodeau. 

This is not only occurring within Brantford, but throughout the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe area. These challenges make it particularly difficult for anyone looking to buy a house currently, especially those who might be first time home-buyers, or those who are just financially stable enough to think about buying a home.

COVID-19 and the economic downturn that has come with it, have had a harsh impact on Brantford’s homeless population as well.

“Rosewood House is one of the largest shelters in Brantford and is currently at full capacity,: said executive director of the shelter, Tim Philp. 

Rosewood House not only provides housing, but assists in case management, helping people navigate social services such as getting IDs, and more.

When the pandemic started, they had opened a quarantine facility, not necessarily for individuals with COVID-19, but also for those who might be at a higher risk for complications from the virus. With this quarantine facility, they will be able to house 60 people, in addition to the 40 they can house in their standard facility.

“The budget for [personal protective equipment] has gone through the roof,” Philp said. 

With help from the City of Brantford and the Brant County Health Unit, shelters all across the city have been very careful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus through their communities. 

These precautions have been successful as, “in the entire shelter system [in Brantford], there’s never been any confirmed case of COVID-19,” he said.

Despite these victories, there are still, of course, many challenges that the homeless population in Brantford are facing during this pandemic. Although every homeless person is in that situation for different reasons, they all face some common challenges, including those involving housing. 

For those who are ready to get into the housing market, many difficulties still exist. 

“Not only are the prices of many houses incredibly high, the fact that they are rising quickly can cause new buyers to get stuck in what they could have bought a year ago, even though that is not what they can buy now,” said Thibodeau. 

Thibodeau said buying a house for the first time is a long process involving many steps such as finding a house to fall in love with, getting a home inspection, and various other processes. 

However, with the speed of today’s market, this process which usually takes many months now must be condensed into a week or so. In order to put a competitive offer in on a house, hopeful buyers may have to give up certain conditions such as a home inspection, but they must first become comfortable with doing this. 

These issues have only become more amplified during the pandemic as there are even less houses on the market.

Although there are many difficulties facing the intersection between the homeless and housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope that as the pandemic subsides, so will some of these challenges.

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