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London ready to get moving with affordable housing deal

London Free Press - April 30, 2005
by Peter Geigen-Miller


A $602-million agreement signed yesterday by the federal and provincial governments means London can move on long-stalled affordable housing projects.

City, federal and provincial representatives celebrated along with housing activists after federal Labour and Housing Minister Joe Fontana and provincial Infrastructure Renewal Minister David Caplan signed the agreement.

"Today has been an incredible day," said a beaming Fontana. "Today, David (Caplan) and I have signed (a) massive and incredible investment in housing . . . "

Caplan said the agreement marks Ontario's renewed commitment to affordable housing after the Harris government bowed out more than a decade ago.

"Ontario is back as a full partner in providing affordable housing for the most vulnerable," he said.

The two ministers were joined by other MPPs and MPs for a signing celebration beside a 90-unit affordable housing project under construction on Burwell Street near Dundas Street.

It and a second London Ontario project were made possible by a 2002 federal-provincial housing agreement.

In the new agreement, each government has committed to providing $301 million for affordable housing in Ontario over four years.

The pact won't instantly solve London's affordable housing shortage since it will take time to get projects under way, said Councillor Susan Eagle, a housing activist.

But city council will jump-start the process Monday night when it hires a consultant who will use earlier reports on affordable housing to create a strategic plan.

"It is very timely for us to update the numbers and move ahead with a strategic plan," Eagle said.

London's need for affordable residential spaces is acute.

Nearly 4,000 people are on the waiting list for housing and 15,000 households were identified three years ago as being in crisis need -- spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, Eagle said.

"That was three years ago so since that time the need has clearly grown."

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the agreement means groups with earlier applications or ideas for housing projects can move toward approval.

The city has $4 million waiting in a housing kitty.

"Our program has always been there to leverage the dollars from the province and the federal government," DeCicco said.

"Now that we have this agreement, it will make it go a lot faster."


FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL HOUSING DEAL

The agreement provides:

  • Rent supplements allowing low-income people to rent existing vacant units.

  • Rental units for people on, or eligible to be on, social housing waiting lists.

  • Supportive housing for people with mental illness.

  • Housing for victims of domestic violence.

  • Home ownership for families with low to moderate incomes.


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