It’s a big challenge for many people to find safe and affordable housing, especially in the City of Barrie.  

Gord Christie doesn't have a lot to come home to – two small rooms, a single bed and a couch, but he considers it be “one of the good ones.”

“I have access to a cooking area, there's a kitchen downstairs. We have a bathroom on this floor that only four of us share,” says Christie. “When I was living on Ross Street, there was eight of us sharing the same bathroom. This place is a palace, for me, after 15 years in rooming houses; this is by far the best.”

Rent is $500 a month, and Christie shares the house with 13 other people. Most rooming houses are snug, and expensive.

“There's no other option, there's literally no other option for anybody that's on social assistance, or any kind of assistance,” says Barrie Ward 2 councillor Rose Romita. “That would let them have a roof over their head, and have food.”

There are about seven large rooming houses in Barrie, most of them are in the downtown core. Romita admits, rooming houses have problems and says there can be fights, unexpected visitors and drug use.

For some though, it's the only affordable option for shelter. The average one bedroom apartment to rent in the city $986 a month, that's according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Barrie is also the most expensive city to rent in, in all of Simcoe County.

“It's a reality, Barrie is shockingly expensive when you're looking to rent an apartment, we have the third highest rent in Ontario after Ottawa and Toronto, and we have the seventh highest rent in the entire country,” says Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman.

Lehman says Barrie has grown quickly and the rental market hasn't. The demand has made it more expensive to get a place.

“I think people who are on a long term disability situation, and relying on those social services, they have it in some ways the toughest,” says Lehman.

Christie's on Ontario disability. Most of his money goes to his rent and while grateful for a place to live, Christie knows it's far from perfect.

“Honestly, I couldn't ever imagine bringing someone here. That would be embarrassing.”