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Affordable housing: overcoming challenges in 2023

Hollyer House at Christ Church Bells Corners is nearing completion and should be ready for its residents to move in in the early spring.
By on January 1, 2023

There is good evidence that 2023 will see positive progress for all the diocese’s five affordable housing projects.

The last two years have been challenging. The cost of building materials has risen sharply.  Supplies have been delayed. The trades have been stressed. Much but not all of the problems can be attributed to the pandemic.

Without exception, sponsoring parishes and the diocese have remained committed to seeing projects through to completion, albeit later than hoped.

“It’s important to anticipate challenges and delays and to have a conviction and resolve to stick with it,” comments the Rev. Canon Dr. PJ Hobbs, director general of Community Ministries.  “In all our affordable housing cases perseverance will bode well for future success.”

“I’m so proud of the Diocese’s ongoing commitment and incredible achievements in the fight against homelessness,” says Sue Garvey, chair of the Homelessness and Affordable housing Working Group.

The group continues to look for ways to support parishes in their engagement, she says. “We know that faith communities like ours have the capacity to deliver high quality, affordable housing supported by the caring communities that we all want to live in.”

The following is a realistic look at the status and outlook for the five parish projects in varying states of development: 

Hollyer House at Christ Church Bells Corners (CCBC) has a move-in date for its 35 units of early spring.

Construction is well under way at Carebridge Community Support’s 28-unit project in Smiths Falls, with St John the Evangelist parish as a partner and key donor of $500,000. Completion is expected in late 2023. 

The Ellwood House extension at St Thomas the Apostle is completing pre-development work and preparing to apply for building permits so that construction of 39 units can start in 2024. 

Julian of Norwich parish will be submitting a rezoning application for its two-and-a-half acre property on Merivale Road with a view to creating its vision of affordable housing, community and sacred space. 

The steering committee established by St James Perth is working with the newly elected town mayor and council to secure a promised parcel of town-owned land for its affordable housing project.

This means that while 2023 will be a year of significant progress the Diocese won’t be celebrating the successful completion of its anniversary campaign until at least 2024 or perhaps later.

The campaign is the flagship undertaking to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Diocese by creating 125 affordable housing units.

The opening of 42 units at Cornerstone Housing for Women’s Princeton Avenue residence provided the first milestone. The opening of Hollyer House and the Smiths Falls project will add 63 units for a total of 105. The remaining 20 units will be easily realized as Ellwood House Extension, the Julian of Norwich and St James Perth projects are completed. But it will take time.

The creation of affordable housing remains a diocesan priority as the need continues to grow. Bishop Shane Parker renewed the mandate of the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Working Group (HAHWG) for its work in engaging with the wider community.

It has always been recognized that many parishes are not in a position themselves to create housing and that advocacy and prayer are equally recognized pillars of the campaign.

Archdeacon Kathryn Otley, incumbent of CCBC, says fundraising for Hollyer House has continued apace, with the fundraising team (Cath Seguin, Victor Wehrle, Margaret Thomas and Sue Garvey) giving presentations to parishes around the diocese. The campaign was closing in on the $1 million mark at year’s end. (Goal $1.6 million).

The Rev. Canon Catherine Ascah, outgoing incumbent of St John the Evangelist Smiths Falls, says building permits for Carebridge’s building on Chambers St were issued in November.  The excavation had already been done, so when the permits came through construction began. (Canon Ascah assumes her duties as incumbent of St Bartholomew’s Ottawa in March).

The Rev. Monique Stone says Julian of Norwich parish and its partner Multifaith Housing “continue to be committed to creating a vibrant housing community on the Merivale/Rossland property.” She added that patience will be required to deal with unforeseen consequences. 

It’s fortunate that St James Perth has a determined and passionate outreach group spearheading its project.  It’s key objective for the year is to secure ownership of a parcel of town-owned land. The property will be turned over to Carebridge Community Support as owner and developer. 

The Ontario government’s Bill 23, More Homes Built Better Act, streaming the planning approval process, isn’t seen as helpful.  The town must declare the land surplus at which point it is open for bids. The Act, eliminating one planning hurdle, could work to the advantage of competition from developers. The community team is working closely with a supportive mayor and councillor to maximize its chances of success.

Author

  • David Humphreys

    David Humphreys is a member of the diocesan Homelessness and Affordable Housing Working Group. A retired journalist and former Globe and Mail bureau chief, he is a regular contributor to Crosstalk.

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