Plans for affordable housing aimed at those with developmental challenges are awaiting a funding decision from the Region of Waterloo, with the agency behind the proposal looking to build the first of four apartment buildings on the west side of Elmira.
“Like it was 40 years ago, a dream to build affordable housing, here we are 40 years later looking at building on that property. It is our field of dreams to provide housing for families and individuals who need support,” Elmira District Community Living (EDCL) executive director Greg Bechard said this week.
The project, “A Field of Dreams,” pays homage to the movie of the same name and will be built on Church Street West property donated by the Christian-Weber family in 1973. It seemed fitting that at last week’s public meeting organizers asked families, “If we build it, will you fund?”
The project has been recommended for regional funding, and EDCL hopes to hear a reply from council at the end of the month. If approved, typically the region will fund about 60 per cent of the approximately $1.1 million it will take to build the first apartment building. Public fundraising events will likely take place in the fall.
The structure will contain five to seven one- and two-bedroom units where residents with intellectual disabilities from across the region will live in relative independence with social support.
The property lies within a larger plot of farmland that’s part of the Lunor Group’s sprawling residential housing development on Church Street, just west of the downtown core.
There’s a great need for the kind of housing planned by EDCL, Bechard noted. Currently, the waiting period for all applicants looking for affordable housing is about five years. During last week’s meeting 53 families gave the plan a warm reception.
“At this point in time we expect that approximately 10 families [will] apply and we are looking at supporting between five and six individuals,” he said.
The building will adopt a similar model the housing development on Snow Goose Crescent in Elmira. There, two university students are provided with free tuition and accommodation in exchange for sharing the home with four adults with developmental challenges, providing then with companionship. Paid employees are on hand for additional practical help, creating a safety net that otherwise allows the residents to live more independent lives.
The initiative has enjoyed popularity across the province, Bechard explained, with several organizations adopting the model. A Peterborough-based group, for example, has partnered with Trent University to build affordable housing and start the student scholarship live-in model developed by EDCL where nursing students are offered scholarships in exchange for “good friends and neighbours” to residents with intellectual disabilities. Bechard is also currently working on integrating a similar model in Belleville.