More affordable housing is needed in Ottawa, local housing and homelessness advocates said at a housing consultation last night.

At the event, held by the provincial government, agencies including the Ottawa branch of the Housing Network of Ontario, the Alliance to End Homelessness, and the Centretown Citizens Community Association stressed to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Jim Watson that everyone deserves a home.

“In our city, there’s a high number of individuals using a homeless shelter, and a big cause for that is the lack of affordable housing,” said Alliance to End Homelessness chairman Perry Rowe at the forum, which was hosted by Watson.

“There’s a long social housing waiting list,” said Rowe.

In 2008 in Ottawa, 7,045 individuals used homeless shelters, 1,116 households were at the point of eviction and 9,692 households were on the social housing waiting list.

“The lack of affordable housing is a critical issue for a high number of low-income clients who reside in the Somerset West CHC catchment,” said Vicky Smallman, advocacy committee chairwoman with Somerset West Community Health Centre.

The issue of affordable housing goes beyond the homeless, said Andrew Aitken.

“I’d like some attention paid to the aging population — it’s the biggest group of Canadians,” said Aitken, who is on the board of directors for the Centretown Citizens Community Association and sits on the seniors committee.

In Centretown, there’s a huge waiting list for affordable housing and subsidized housing as well as a shortage of low-rent and low purchase price homes, he said. Many of the seniors that live there bought their homes in the ’50s.

“Now, the property tax is too much for someone who’s on a fixed income,” he said, adding that when they move for more affordable housing, they become isolated and lose their friends and support network.

The groups asked Watson to increase funding for affordable housing and to assist tenants who cannot afford Ottawa’s rents.

The meeting was “a great chance to listen and learn from the residents of Ottawa,” said Watson. “Ensuring people have access to safe and affordable housing is a priority of mine and we all share in the responsibility of making this a reality.”