Forty-one affordable housing units will be coming to Durham, federal and regional officials announced Wednesday.
The $10.3 million investment is part of the country’s billion-dollar Rapid Housing Initiative, which is expected to create 4,500 new units across Canada. The funding stems from an increased need for permanent housing, especially amid the pandemic.
Toronto MP Adam Vaughan, who is also the parliamentary secretary to the minister of social development says it’s “an investment into Durham that is going to help us end chronic homelessness.”
Vaughan adds Durham is among a small handful of communities across Canada that have been deemed in dire need of affordable housing.
“The initiative is measured on a number of different scales. One of them is the point in time count. We take a look at the number of people who are precariously housed, who had experienced homelessness episodically within a municipality,” he said.
“The 30 most significant communities in terms of the number of homeless people comprise the list of the city stream of the dollars here.”
The region says the majority of the units will be built in Oshawa. Unsheltered individuals, who are currently on a waitlist, will be prioritized to move into the homes.
“Social housing is really just the start of changing people’s lives,” said Regional Chair John Henry.
However, local homelessness advocate Christeen Thornton says while Wednesday’s announcement is a positive step towards helping those in precarious living situations, more needs to be done to regulate market rental prices in the region.
“We’re on-loading a lot of work for ourselves when we could simply write a bill or a law that says you’re not allowed to charge $2,000 for a basement apartment,” she said.
Meanwhile, those working in the shelters say the need for affordable housing is always present. However, concerns remain when it comes to the logistics of building the homes.
“There are zoning issues, variances, various things, all kinds of little fees that really hinder non-profits putting up housing fairly rapidly,” said Robert Brglez, executive director of Cornerstone in Oshawa.
A point in time count from 2018 cites 290 people in the region were experiencing homelessness. Advocates predict that number has since risen.
Whether it be taking old properties and converting them into affordable housing units, or building modular or micro-homes, the region says all options are on the table at this point. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
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