Affordable housing solutions

The March 11 article in the Napanee Beaver about the emergency stays program which included an interview with Mayor Isbester left me with the mental image of all of Council backed into a corner with the Grim Reaper called housing raising a sickle menacingly over their heads.

For a number of years, I was a community representative on the Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS) Housing Advisory Committee. In this capacity, I attended many meetings and workshops to learn about the options available to tackle the ever-growing affordable housing crisis.

And now mayor and council, want to meet again. This time though it will be to create a strategy with a group of well intentioned people who will present the same facts, who will explain the same issues, and offer up the same wish list of possible solutions that I heard over the last decade.

Resolving homelessness and getting people off the extensive wait list (700+) for affordable housing is hard work. I urge our mayor and council to review the myriad of reports and minutes of meetings that exist and then present the options that they want to stand behind to drastically reduce the wait list.

Here are some options:

  1. Create a Housing Corporation that will use existing municipally owned rental properties, vacant town land and derelict properties to underwrite the building of new affordable housing units. Northumberland County and Peterborough have done this and have been able to take advantage of the substantial provincial and federal funding that is available.
  2. Purchase a motel that will serve as emergency and transitional housing. This way our citizens who fall on hard times can benefit from the scientifically proven concept known as Housing First.
  3. Insist that every developer who wishes to build in our area, dedicate at least two units that charge rents that are geared-to-income.  As an incentive council could offer drastically reduced development and building permit fees; rebate of HST etc.
  4. Ensure there are no zoning or municipal bylaws that restrict the building of secondary suites, tiny homes, trailer parks, boarding houses, etc.
  5. Hire a housing officer or two who will encourage implementation of innovative concepts such as shared homes where home owners – often the elderly or people with chronic health issues, share their homes for an affordable rent in exchange for chores.
  6. Reconsider the notion that community based volunteers or not-for-profit agencies will muster the money and where-with-all to build and operate new affordable housing units.

Without the unrelenting and inspirational support of our elected local representatives little is going to change on the affordable housing front. So yes Ms. Mayor and council – develop a strategy. Brainstorm. Prioritize. Write a report. And then what will you do to break out of that proverbial corner and create more affordable, geared-to-income housing.

Joanne Harrington

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