"What Will it Take" Philip Mills, Habitat Waterloo Region CEO

Posted in In The News

Philip Mills, Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region CEO

What Will it Take?

Hardly a week goes by where I don’t see an article in the paper or online about a new development application in our region. Each of those articles have a bit of a Groundhog Day feel to them. It’s the same thing over and over every time.  
Every article is talking about new places, different developers, and different types of building, but they all say the same thing - this particular project “isn’t right”.  
It’s the nature of systemic issues. No one instance is enough to say there is a problem. On the face of it, in that one instance, perhaps it is a real problem. In each instance the reasons change and the location is never the same, but collectively, in the end, we are left with the same refrain - we need housing but not this.  
As a community, how do we become a place that says, “we need this”? 
Every time I read those articles I wonder, “what will it take?” What will it take for us to see our current reality as a crisis? What will it take for us to treat our current reality as a crisis? What will it take for us to prioritize this crisis? 
What will it take? 
While we may have gotten here like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, truly unaware of what was happening around us, we are long past the point of wondering if the water is too hot. It’s boiling and yet we can’t seem to come together for our own collective good. 
We focus on the bits and pieces while missing the larger reality. We need more housing. We need more of every type of housing. We need more rentals. We need more supportive housing. We need more affordable homeownership. We need more seniors housing. We need everything.  
A 2021 Scotiabank report notes that for Canada to reach the G7 average for housing units per 1,000 people we would need a staggering 1.8 million units. Think about that number. Two years ago, we needed 1.8 million units…not to be a leader, not to be the best in the G7, but just to get to average. At the time of the report, Canada had 424 units per 1,000 people. Kitchener on the other hand had 376. To put that in context, Canada is at the bottom of the G7 and our local number is worse than the national number.  
So, what will it take?  
Surely it will need to be something bold. It will need to be something different. Whatever solutions we’ve been using, they aren’t enough. If they were, we wouldn’t be where we are.  
I wonder though if what we need more than anything is for the community to come together and agree it is time to actually fix this.   
Undoubtedly in every article I read, local politicians are asking questions about a new development. The issues they raise are the same with almost every development, but I don’t think they do that because they don’t understand how pressing the need is. I think they understand us, their voters. They understand that we, as a community, are still not ready to attack this problem.  
So, what will it take for us as a community to be ready to tackle this problem and put aside our concerns, our fears, our wants, and see the need of those around us? Because the need is so much greater than it has ever been. 
This crisis has grown as the water has continued to boil hotter and hotter. From homelessness to rent prices that are unsustainable to housing prices rising at such a rate that many cannot even fathom purchasing a home, this will touch every one of us.  
Where will your children live? Where will your parents live? Where will your co-workers or employees live? Where will you live? 
So, what will it take?  
It will take all of us, coming together to see this as our problem. It isn’t their problem, but it is ours and we cannot fix it without all us. We can fix this if we’re ready. We can fix this if we want to.  
It will take us deciding this crisis is not what we want for our community and committing to fix it. To prioritize housing and not all the reasons why not this housing.  

Philip Mills 
CEO, Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region 

Scotiabank report: Estimating the Structural Housing Shortage in Canada: Are We 100 Thousand or Nearly 2 Million Units Short?

Philip Mills, CEO

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