John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

JHS on Facebook JHS on Twitter G+ JHSYouTube

Affordable housing cash for Durham

Sept. 3, 2005
By Mike Ruta, Staff Writer

DURHAM -- It's not nearly enough, and it's been a long time coming, but housing advocates are welcoming millions in government funding for affordable housing.

The federal and provincial governments are sending $13.55 million to Durham to build new affordable housing units and for housing allowances and rent supplements. The funding is part of $402 million announced for Ontario, the first portion of $602 million to be provided by the federal and provincial governments in a new Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program. When municipal funding is added, the total is $734 million by 2009.

"Durham's allocation based on our share of the province's core need is 160 (new) units, and that is a very small percentage of the number of people on our waiting list," said Deborah McCord, Durham Region's manager of social housing operations, noting the list has more than 4,000 names. "The 160 units the Region of Durham has been allocated will put a dent in it."

A portion of the provincial funding, $24 million, is to fast-track the building of 500 units in Ontario that are ready to proceed. But, Ms. McCord says while two small projects in Durham are in the works, in anticipation of funding that was on the way, they are still in the design phase and ineligible for a share of that pot. The Durham projects, in Oshawa and Uxbridge, total 17 units. Ms. McCord said it's not yet known where Durham's new housing will be built.

"I think the need will have to be assessed based on the waiting list and also on who is interested in proceeding," she said, explaining private and municipal non-profit housing providers might be interested. Included in Durham's share of the funding is $2.35 million covering 140 existing housing units to help tenants pay their rent. Ms. McCord explains that the funds will cover the difference between what a tenant can afford and the market rent price.

Elizabeth Allaway, manager of housing services at the John Howard Society of Durham Region, said she would celebrate when the money is actually in Durham Region. She noted the announcement has been made numerous times, but the money has never arrived.

"I don't get excited anymore until I see them turning the earth over," she said. "It's a very small start and it shows some kind of commitment by government, if they hand this over, to put housing back on the agenda." The funding was initially announced in 2001, when an affordable housing framework was reached among the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Individual agreements between the federal and provincial governments, however, were still required. Deals between Canada and Ontario were signed in 2002 and again last April.

The last affordable housing built in Durham was the 28-unit, rent-geared-to-income apartment building at 454 Bloor St. E. in Oshawa. The building, a collaboration among The Cornerstone Community Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the YWCA, opened 11 years ago. Ms. Allaway says to show the increasing need for housing and related help here, "all you have to do is look at our stats."

In 2002, as a community outreach/eviction prevention advocate, she helped 768 clients, a number that grew to 1,187 last year. The society's housing advocate assisted 608 clients in 2002 and 1,150 people in 2004. The Durham East Outreach Advocate in Bowmanville helped 347 clients in 2002 and 538 in 2004.

Ms. McCord says the Region is still awaiting the fine print. The terms of the agreement, she says, will provide details on the cost to the municipality and how the building of the units is to proceed. "We'll get the details, hopefully this fall, and council will have to make a decision on how to proceed," she said.