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Friday, August 2, 2019

Provincial Funding Cuts Jeopardize Affordable Housing Project

Owen Sound | by Claire McCormack  

Owen Sound Housing Company is asking the Province to restore funding it cut this year.

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Close to 700 people in Grey County are waiting for affordable housing and the Owen Sound Housing Company wants the Province to restore funding it cut this year.

Chair of the Owen Sound Housing Company Ruth Lovell-Stanners, says the reduction jeopardizes plans for the third phase of an affordable and attainable housing project on the city's East side.

"The whole scope of the project, if it remains at the lower level of support would be cut dramatically," says Lovell-Stanners.

The not-for-profit has met with Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, who they hope will be able to help.

Money for housing comes from the upper levels of government through Grey County's Housing Department.

A July 25th County staff report says Grey County received less funding in 2019  than in the past three years. ( 2016: $1.7 million, 2017: $1.9 million, 2018: $1.3 million, 2019: $435,000)

About halfway into a planned 90 unit community, 36 units and a community room are up and running on schedule.

But a 54 unit apartment building where 20 affordable units and 24 market price units were planned, has now lost half of its funding.

An expected $2.5 million for the 20 affordable units has been reduced to just over $1 million ($1,050,000) which can only build about seven to 12 units.  

Meanwhile, infrastructure for the original 90 unit plan has already been put in and needs to be paid for. As units are rented, the cost of that infrastructure is paid off.

Lovell-Stanners says it has rent implications because if there are fewer units built, there are fewer units over which to spread the cost of that infrastructure.

She says the Owen Sound Housing Company plans to continue its build, even if it must be on a smaller scale for now.

At the County, Director of Housing Anne Marie Shaw agrees, noting the demand for housing remains, "We are definitely moving ahead with the build because we need stock."

In order to do this, Shaw explains some other County programs will not be funded. They are the Rental Supplement and Secondary Suites programs.
Two others, Ontario Renovates and the County's Home ownership programs have some revolving funding that will keep them going.

Shaw says, "We're taking the money we do have and we're putting it where we think we're going to get the best bang for our buck."

Meanwhile, in Durham, 15 affordable housing units are being put in by Chester Street.

Shaw says a housing and homelessness review that will outline housing strategies for the next five years is due in September.

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