The Ontario Rural Housing Action Network (ORHAN) is a voluntary association of advocates and providers of safe, affordable housing and related services in rural Ontario. We are growing in participation and we invite others to join with us to create a strong voice for rural housing issues.
In the spring of 2008, representatives from the Ontario chapter of Canadian Pensioners Concerned took note of a rural housing study conference in Port Perry that highlighted some overlooked issues of affordable housing needs in rural areas, particularly as they affected the elderly. This concern rapidly grew to involve all age groups as they found:
· Indifference of rural and small town politicians to problems of inadequate affordable housing and homelessness in their communities
· Increasing pressure on some long-term residents due to increasing property values and taxes, which may result in their displacement
· In-migration of well-off families and seniors to rural recreation areas from cities, attracted by high-end retirement housing
· Out-migration of some youth from rural areas for education and jobs
· In-migration to rural areas by other youth (erroneously) in search of lower living costs
· Predominant official perceptions of homelessness as an urban phenomenon at the expense of rural areas.
· Additional difficulties of assisting homelessness persons in rural areas due to isolation and lack of transportation.
The group decided that there needed to be a network formed to explore these issues and propose solutions to the growing rural affordable housing needs.
Initially formed as the Rural Housing Issues Network of Ontario in 2008, ORHAN continues to be supported by Canadian Pensioners Concerned of Ontario and the Wellesley Institute. Our goals are:
· To provide a common point of contact for those concerned with rural housing issues.
· To amplify the voices of people who advocate for and/or provide emergency, supportive, transitional and permanent housing and related services in rural Ontario communities.
· To create and maintain an interactive website and blog page where participants can share information, research, resources, best practices and planning.
· To engage and support rural housing providers in policy development using web-based technologies as the primary means of communication.
· To collect and incorporate personal experiences of housing insecurity and/or risk of homelessness in rural communities into research, funding and policy proposals.
All of our participants and interest groups are volunteers and we have no paid staff. Geographically, we have representation or interest from Sudbury through to Hastings County. All of our participants agree that issues around providing affordable housing in rural areas are poorly represented at all levels of government and poorly understood by many stakeholders.
Our web site is not fancy, but it does provide a space for news, reports, discussions, and valuable information and links on rural housing. Through our efforts at communicating with the Internet and telephone, we are slowly improving the reporting and sharing of information, concerns and best practices of agencies, interest groups and municipalities.
If you have a concern or comment on affordable housing in rural areas, we invite you to visit our web site at www.orhan.ca or our blog at: www.orhanblog.wordpress.com and leave us an email if you would like to join our group as an observer or participant.
John Bennett, Guest Blogger, Norwood Ontario