For this instalment of my blog, I'm focusing on social housing and highlighting some of our achievements, as well as future opportunities, included in the Housing Our Future: 2016 Annual Report. The Report was published at the end of June and outlines our progress on the 10-year Affordable Housing and Poverty Reduction Strategy. As you know, 2016 marked the third year of the project. Based on the stats below, you can see that we're making great headway towards our targets of creating 2,685 new affordable housing units between 2014-2024.
- 544 new units have been created since the Strategy was approved - this includes 75 new affordable rental units constructed in 2016 for seniors in both Penetanguishene and Barrie
- 15 new secondary suites have been completed with County/Provincial funding during 2016 and 124 secondary suites were created without government funding in 2016
- 20 households were assisted with down-payments through the Affordable Homeownership program during 2016 which assists in our goal towards moving families through the continuum of housing supports ultimately to sustainable homeownership
- We invested $7.9 million in maintaining social housing assets in County owned and non-profit housing in 2016 – this includes dollars spent on repairs, upgrades and energy efficiency projects
- We issued a Call for Proposals to solicit municipal interest in affordable housing development in partnership with Simcoe County Housing Corporation, which resulted in 11 offered sites in six different municipalities. Out of this we are in the process of formalizing a new build in Wasaga Beach and a longer term strategy to build in Bradford West Gwillimbury which is followed by Penetanguishene.
- We continue to work very collaboratively with our Municipal Liaison Committee, which includes representatives from our member municipalities as well as Barrie and Orillia. This group has been great for taking a unified approach and making headway in tracking targets county-wide
- While this is technically part of the 2017 achievements, we also hosted a very successful Affordable Housing Innovations Forum in February that has led new ideas and concepts - including the proposed motel conversion initiative
An important stat to keep in mind is that to my knowledge, more than 300 units of affordable rental development are in various stages of the construction process in six different communities across the County. These units will help us continue to make a dent in our targets. This includes a large build already underway in Collingwood that will create 117 new units. There has also been recent news about our efforts to work with non-profit partners, as well as the City of Barrie, to convert a motel in the Barrie area into affordable housing options for some of our most vulnerable residents. This project is very much in play and continues to go through our approval and land acquisition process.
We can't achieve our targets on our own and it's important that we recognize the funding commitments from the federal and provincial governments (which included an extra $13.3 million in Social Infrastructure Funding in 2016, in addition to the approximately $24.7 million received for 2014-2020).
I have attached a Best Practices Information Sheet that provide tips and background details on how our municipalities can work with private and not-for profit sectors to identify and create new affordable rental housing opportunities in our communities.
I am anxious to see what we come up with during the budget process to deliver affordable housing to our more rural area hamlets and villages such as Victoria Harbor.
My housing message to everyone is that we can't sit idle. To my mind, housing is not the problem, it is the solution. For me, we have to be active, nimble, creative and move far more quickly in delivering immediate solutions that address short and long term needs. I am happy we're getting there and that we are well on our way to achieving our targets.
Simcoe County Warden