OTTAWA — The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is sending an urgent message to federal political parties to address housing for seniors in this fall’s election campaign as Canada approaches “a perfect storm.”
In findings released Monday, the FCM documented slumping incomes among seniors, rising rent costs and an increasingly aging population that it said will have a devastating financial impact if the issue is not addressed now.
Just last month, Statistics Canada released new population figures showing Canada’s seniors population has edged out the number of children under 15.
The number of seniors is expected to double to more than 10.4 million over the next 25 years, the federal agency predicts.
Edmonton, for example, expects its population aged over 80 to increase 266% between 2006 and 2041.
“It is a very urgent message that any government should properly plan for the future,” said FCM president Raymond Louie.
“In the next 20 years, we will have a significant problem if we don’t start addressing it today.”
Louie said it makes economic sense to invest in supporting seniors.
“The parties, all of them, need to pay more attention into an investment in housing,” he said.
The FCM report indicates Canada’s aging population is changing the face of communities across the country and close to 700,000 households led by seniors face a challenge with housing affordability.
“A combination of modest incomes and high living costs mean that almost one in four senior-led households are spending 30 per cent more of their income on shelter,” the report states.
The findings also detail how significant groups of seniors remain economically vulnerable.
“Seniors who live alone experience poverty at nearly twice the rate of other seniors,” it said.
The FCM says part of the solution is to provide housing options for seniors by building and expanding existing programs to confront issues such as the growing number of seniors on social housing wait lists.
It also recommends supporting and growing municipal, provincial and federal programs that enable seniors to renovate their housing to accommodate changing needs.
The FCM found housing affordability is particularly an issue in Canada’s largest cities, where there is a higher concentration of poor households led by seniors.
Louie said municipalities simply do not have the capacity to manage a ballooning problem.
“When people have no place to live, we end up having many more social problems,” he said.
Louie said the FCM’s report highlights how the situation will deteriorate further without intervention by the federal government.
Federal funding provided through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to the tune of $1.6 billion a year will no longer be in place if funding agreements are allowed to expire, he added.
“That’s why the FCM has been pushing as hard as we can to highlight how important it is that we continue to have housing funding made available, let alone expanding it which is what we would like to see happen,” he said.
“We know that the situation is getting worse, housing affordability in general is becoming more and more challenging.”