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Province announces funding to tackle affordable-housing shortage

Affordable housing increasingly difficult to come by, the province’s plan to add $1 billion into the mix was welcomed by community housing advocates.

The Ford government’s recently announced Ontario Housing Renewal Strategy earmarks the funds for combating homelessness and boosting the stock of affordable housing.

In Waterloo Region, affordable-housing waiting lists have grown, notes Dan Driedger, executive director of MennoHomes, a charity that creates such housing.

“There is just slightly more than 4,600 on the Waterloo Region’s waiting list,” said Driedger. “When I started at MennoHomes in 2013, that number was 3,000.”

Rising home prices, higher interest rates, and an extremely low turnover rate are all factors contributing to the increased difficulty in accessing affordable housing.

Among MennoHomes’ rental units, there’s been no turnover since 2013, he noted.

The provincial government promises to fix a “fragmented and inefficient system” into one that is more streamlined and sustainable. Driedger added that how the effort will play out in the Waterloo Region was not clear yet.

“We’re eagerly anticipating what the details will look like,” said Driedger. “We are hopeful that means there will be a call for expressions of interest some time. We want to make sure that we’re ready to respond to that.

“Until we see the details coming from the province through the region, we really don’t know what to expect. But we’re encouraged by the fact that they’ve committed to working with the National Housing Strategy program. We think that’s a wise decision of their part.”

The steps included in the community housing renewal strategy include but are not limited to: freeing up the waitlist by having tenants prioritize their first choice and accept the first unit they are offered, making cost of rent more predictable by simplifying rent calculations, requiring an asset test for eligibility, and allowing housing providers to turn away tenants who have been evicted for criminal activity.

Among the groups to receive funding, Investment in Affordable Housing in Ontario is to get  $2,367,800, the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative gets $10,225,029, Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative receiving $3,884,400, $1,554,840 allotted for Home for Good, and $506,250 to the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative.

“Our government believes Waterloo Region families shouldn’t have to live in buildings and units that are falling apart,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris in a release. “I look forward to working closely with municipalities and non-profits to address issues like safety, overcrowding and long wait lists.”

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