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Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health
Row of houses

Housing and Physical Environments

Housing and health

Housing can influence your health

  • Housing is a social determinant of health that is a priority at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health. Learn about the social determinants of health here.
  • Adequate housing has a positive impact on your health.
  • Inadequate housing can have a detrimental impact on your health.

Lack of housing (homelessness) can affect health

  • People experiencing homelessness face substantial barriers to good health and as a result are at increased risk of many health issues. These include risk to both physical and mental health.
  • Public Health Ontario prepared an evidence brief on the health outcomes associated with homelessness and they are as follows:

Physical health

  • Physical health concerns can be exacerbated by experiences of homelessness. For example, infectious diseases such as: sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, and tuberculosis are seen in higher rates among homeless populations.
    • Higher STI prevalence was associated with intimate partner violence, injection and non-injection substance use, incarceration history and homelessness severity.
  • Other health issues such as: foot issues, hypertension/diabetes, injuries, nutritional deficiencies.

Mental health

  • Mental health disorders such as cognitive function and memory issues can be exacerbated by experiences of homelessness.

Poor-quality housing can affect health

  • Crowded housing can cause an increased risk of infectious diseases, gastroenteritis and diarrheal disease, mental health issues including psychological stress, and sleep disturbance.
    • Strategies should be developed and implemented to prevent and reduce household crowding.
  • Room temperature can have an impact on health. This includes respiratory and cardiovascular health, hospital admissions, blood pressure, heat stroke, dehydration and all-cause mortality. When housing is either too hot or too cold, the risk of negative health impacts increases. Room temperature may be too hot or too cold when there is inadequate insulation or a lack of access to heating and air conditioning.
    • Indoor housing temperatures should be high enough to protect resident from the harmful health effects of cold. For countries with temperate or colder climates, 18°C has been proposed as a safe and well-balanced indoor temperature to protect the health of general populations during cold seasons.
    • In climate zones with a cold season, efficient and safe thermal insulation should be installed in new housing and retrofitted in old housing.
    • In populations exposed to high ambient temperatures, strategies to protect populations from excess indoor heat should be developed and implemented.
  • Accessibility of housing can have an impact on health. When housing is not accessible, there can be an increased rate of injury (such as falls), a decline in well-being and quality of life, mental health issues such as depression, dependency on external or social care services, and a decline in social participation.  
    • Based on current and projected national prevalence of populations with functional impairments and considering trends of ageing, an adequate proportion of the housing stock should be accessible to people with functional impairments.
  • Other housing quality risk factors include water quality and temperature, air quality, tobacco smoke, noise, asbestos, lead, and radon.
    • Where appropriate, steps should be taken to improve these risk factors in homes.

Homelessness in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties

Hastings County Enumeration

  • The 2021 homeless enumeration for Hastings County conducted on the evening of November 15, 2021 found that there were 237 people experiencing homelessness in the area.
  • 98 people were chronically homeless whereas 69 had been homeless for a year.
  • 95% said they wanted to get into permanent housing.
  • Housing affordability was identified as a top barrier to obtaining permanent housing.

Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Counties Enumeration

  • The 2021 homeless enumeration for Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington Counties found 45 people who were experiencing homelessness in Prince Edward County.
  • Housing affordability was identified as a top contributing factor to homelessness. High rent and low incomes were identified as the leading factors as to why people are unable to find housing.
  • Unsafe housing, conflict and abuse were additional factors that contributed to homelessness.

Supportive housing

  • Housing is a human right and protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code; supportive housing can help people stabilize their life and improve their circumstances.  
  • Access to supportive housing can make the community safer as a whole.
  • There are serious community health consequences when “NIMYISM” occurs (NIMBY = Not in my back yard).
    • NIMBY opposition to housing projects is based on stereotypes or negative attitudes about the people who will live in them. The opposition can include discriminatory attitudes as well as actions, laws or policies developed by a municipality.

Affordable housing is needed across the income spectrum

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) adults living in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties pay more than 30% of their income towards housing.
  • This number is much higher for renters, where over 1 in 3 (37%) renters are paying more than 30% of their income towards housing.
    • This is in stark contrast to 12% of owned households spending 30% or more of their income on housing.

The following video summarizes the importance of housing in relation to health:

What is the role of public health?

  • Educate municipalities and local community groups about the role that housing has in its relationship to health.
  • Advocate for access to safe affordable housing across the community.
  • Provide direct support by way of public health nursing services to people experiencing homelessness through outreach, harm reduction and sexual health services.
  • Assist residents with health and safety concerns by guiding residents towards credible resources.
  • Support tenants in unsafe housing by supporting referrals to appropriate agencies as needed. This may include Ministry of Environment, Landlord Rental Tribunal Agency, local fire department and legal aid.
  • Ordering a landlord to correct a health hazard (e.g. provide potable water)

Information about housing in HPEPH

Fact sheets

Need More Information About Housing and Physical Environments?

Please contact the Social Determinants of Health Nurse by calling 613-966-5500 or 1-800-267-2803.

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