As MennoHomes’ third annual Bike-a-thon prepares to depart from Elmira on June 22, riders will try to raise $70,000 to help with affordable housing initiatives in the region. Even before he became president of the group, Martin Buhr had a strong sense of the need for action.“From the mid-‘90s to the end of the ‘90s, the vacancy rate [number of units available to rental] had dropped to below one per cent,” said Buhr.
“That’s a very serious situation, because then there’s the likelihood that some of the housing offered will be below standard. People are desperate – they’ll take just about anything. You might have somebody living in a basement without a window or fire escape route next to the furnace.”
Buhr had served many years as executive director at House of Friendship, and after leaving that group in 1998, the idea of returning to public service for affordable housing stayed in his mind. Fast forward to 2001: when the Mennonite Central Committee sponsored a new program for that exact cause, they called on Buhr to be president.
MennoHomes houses have been built across the region, including several in Elmira (large families will soon be moving into a bungalow and a duplex on Ratz Street). But while modest rental fees pay the mortgage and property tax, plenty of funds are still needed: at the bike-a-thon, money raised will go toward paying for insurance, maintenance costs, and contributions to capital reserves, among other expenses. Last year’s event raised $60,000, and the group hopes to up the ante by another $10,000 this time around.
Cyclists, motorcyclists, runners, and walkers can take routes of 5, 7, 10, 14, 21, or 28 kilometres along the Kissing Bridge Trail. Adventurous riders can even head to the Shand Dam from Salem to Fergus.
The MennoHomes affordable housing bike-a-thon will depart from the Elmira Mennonite Church (58 Church St. W.) on June 22 at 9 a.m. A barbecue lunch will be available at the church from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Interested participants can contact Martin Buhr at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 519-578-5546.