New immigrants are the ‘hidden homeless’

Anthony Rosario, his wife and three adult children shared a two-bedroom apartment in Scarborough when they first came from Bangladesh in 1998.

At times, they also shared their already crowded dwelling with other families, converting available space into bedrooms.

Space was tight but so was their budget, with their $900-a-month rent eating up half the family’s monthly income.

Up until February, Rosario and his wife, Mary, were still sharing their two-bedroom apartment with his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

“It’s tough to live with so many people in so little space, but you are bound to live like this when you don’t have money,” said Rosario, 61, a bakery chef, who two months ago finally moved into a subsidized seniors’ apartment after four years on the waiting list.

But a new study on immigrant housing warns that thousands of newcomers continue to live in “hidden homelessness” — in shared, overcrowded housing — an issue that has grown more acute, especially in Toronto, where affordable rental units are in short supply.

The national study by Metropolis, an international network of researchers in immigration policy, found most newcomers reported spending more than 50 per cent of income on housing, with 15 per cent spending 75 per cent or more.

“Financial difficulties force many newcomers to share accommodations that are often poor quality, overcrowded and unsafe,” says the report.

The report is based on national housing data and surveys of 600 migrants in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In Toronto, where the average wage is $69,000, most newcomers surveyed had incomes under $20,000.

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