The single mom has been waiting for more than three years for a place to call home.
A place she can afford.
A place for her three children.
A place that doesn't eat up more than half of her monthly income.
When that place will be offered to her is anybody's guess. It's a waiting game. Pure and simple.
Where it will be, she doesn't know.
In the meantime, 37-year-old Kory Foxall worries about her children. About having enough money left after rent and utilities are paid, to buy food, clothes and other basic needs.
She is frustrated at the system. A system that seems unsympathetic to her plight. A system that makes her explain to her kids why she can't afford hotdog day at school, or why she always says no when they ask to go to places like Cheeky Monkeys.
“I don't see anybody doing anything about it,” she says.
“Something needs to be done. There's way too many people on the housing list. We shouldn't have to wait that long.”
Kory has been on the Niagara Regional Housing list for affordable housing for 3 ½ years.
She is one of about 9,800 people — or about 6,000 families — in Niagara waiting for affordable housing. Single people. Seniors. Parents with children. Single parents with children. Couples. People who are homeless. Victims of violence.
All waiting for housing they can afford.
And in the meantime, many struggling to pay full market rent, on limited incomes.
Across Niagara, wait times vary based on geography, family size, and type of accommodation needed.
Single people, between the ages of 16 and 54, have the longest wait. According to NRH statistics, the wait for a one-bedroom apartment in St. Catharines is about nine years, 10 years in the Falls, and 13 in Welland.
Seniors will wait from just over three years in Pelham, to nearly five years for a one-bedroom in Welland.
And families like Kory's, who need multiple bedrooms, can wait for up to eight years. Lincoln has the longest wait for a three-bedroom. In St. Catharines, Kory's wait is on par with statistics — 3 ½ years for a four-bedroom apartment.
Niagara has more than 8,200 affordable housing units, some owned by NRH, some by not-for-profits and co-operatives, others private.
The wait list problem is complicated. The solution, not easy, says Lora Beckwith, NRH general manager.
Niagara's 10-year action plan on housing and homelessness — A Home for All — outlines affordable housing challenges and actions needed to allow everyone in Niagara to have a home.
Among the problems:
A continuing lack of permanent affordable housing compared to demand;
Existing social housing is getting older and is in need of repair. Just under half of the current affordable housing stock is between 30 and 60 years old.
Vacancy rates have increased, likely due to higher-income renters buying homes and leaving the rental market, and the substandard quality of some rental units at the lower end of the market making them difficult to rent.
The number of rental units has been decreasing because they're being converted into condos, and few new rentals are being built.
Average rents in Niagara continue to rise.
Rental housing is becoming unaffordable to households with low incomes. Average house prices continue to rise making home ownership less affordable.
A greater range of dwelling types are needed, especially for seniors and smaller households.
Part of the challenge, too, involves a low turnover rate.
When a family finally gets into affordable housing, they feel like they've “won the lottery” because of lower rent and support programs made available to them, and they don't want to move out, and nor can they because of their life situation, says Wendy Thompson, NRH Community Resource Unit Manager.
Says Beckwith: “If we had a better economy, if we had more jobs, we could get housing to work the way it was supposed to work.
“It would be more transitional than permanent.”
More than half of the NRH's operating costs — roughly $54 million — is paid for by taxpayers. A quarter comes from renters themselves. And the remainder, from both levels of government — 16.8% from the feds, 5.3% from the province, says Beckwith.
In addition, federal and provincial governments chipped in $7.9 million most recently to build the Fitch Street building in Welland.
On this day, Kory's three children, ages 7, 9, and 10 are at school. Her 21-year-old daughter just finished her second year of college to become a paramedic, and will likely move back home for the summer.
Kory nurses a cup of tea on her living room sofa, and tries to explain the frustration of waiting in a line with no visible end.
She has been on Ontario Disability Support Program assistance for four years. Her monthly cheque is divided into two parts — $886 for rent and utilities, and $750 for basic needs.
Problem is, rent alone for her four-bedroom apartment in a St. Catharines co-operative housing complex is $940 a month. Add on electric utility (heat or air conditioning), at $400-500 monthly, and it means she blows her rent amount and needs to carve into her grocery money just to have a place to live.
Even factoring in other supplements — the Ontario Trillium Benefit (which she will soon lose) and the Canada Child Tax Benefit — housing chews up more than half of her total income. She's tried to find cheaper rent, but can't. And she's hesitant to move because she'd lose the $1,100 in co-op fees she paid during the first year, and she'd have to fork out first and last month's rent again.
Affordable housing would give her financial breathing room.
In St. Catharines, she'd pay $278 for a four-bedroom apartment. Of course the ODSP shelter portion would be reduced too, but she wouldn't be stealing from her food money to pay for housing.
She would be able to use basic needs money for, well, basic needs.
It might mean fewer trips to the food bank. And maybe she'd be spared the embarrassment of using a food voucher at the grocery store — showing ID and signing in front of everyone. “When I feel they're judging me, I just brush it off and try not to let it bother me,” she says.
She'd be able to save a little, even treat her kids once in a while. Maybe afford hot dog day. Maybe take her kids camping this summer.
She wants people to know that she's grateful for assistance. And tries to cut costs where she can.
She's home all day, but waits until evening to do her laundry at cheaper rates. She's trying to quit smoking — hoping to save a couple hundred bucks a year. And she dutifully explains to her children the economics of paying $3 per kid for a hotdog at school, and using that $3 at the grocery store to buy a package of 12 wieners.
Yet, she still can't make ends meet. She has no savings. “If I was to die tomorrow, my children would be left in debt,” she says. No education fund for her children. And an OSAP loan to pay back from an attempt at college.
She has monthly bills for a cellphone, Internet and cable — all expenses she considers necessities. And this month alone, her kids came home from school with forms for three fieldtrips. Total cost: $35.
“I may not be able to afford the best, but we have things,” she says.
Her children have toys — Barbies, Monster High dolls, flip flops.
“They're fed. They're full. They have a roof over their head. They have comfortable beds to sleep in.”
“I do what I can do, and I do the best for me and my kids,” she says.
“I make the best of what I have.
“I just don't want to struggle pay cheque to pay cheque.”