Parish News

Perth affordable housing project moves forward

Brian Perkins; Marc Girouard, Carebridge operations director; The Rev. Canon Ken Davis; David Kroetsch of St James, co-chair of CCHIP; Rob Eves, Carebridge CEO and Claire Smith, CCHIP co-chair of fundraising.
Members of the steering committee of Caring Community Housing Initiative Perth join with Carebridge Community Support officials to celebrate success: from left, Brian Perkins; Marc Girouard, Carebridge operations director; The Rev. Canon Ken Davis; David Kroetsch of St James, co-chair of CCHIP; Rob Eves, Carebridge CEO and Claire Smith, CCHIP co-chair of fundraising. Absent from the photo is Linda Chaim, co-chair of fundraising.

The Perth town council has voted unanimously in favour of a motion that moves St. James the Apostle’s affordable housing project closer to reality.

It wasn’t quite the final approval the St James team, working through the community-based Caring Community Housing Initiative Perth (CCHIP), had been hoping for but it was grounds for celebration.

The council directed its planners to prepare the town-owned land at 63 Halton Street for the project of 10 to 12 units with a view to transferring it to Carebridge Community Support as owner and operator at a meeting in December. “We didn’t get all we asked for and we didn’t get it as soon as we wanted but we are very encouraged,” the Rev. Canon Ken Davis says.

The team had hoped the work that was mandated in October would have been done in August as originally promised, including reviews of zoning and green space requirements, establishing the legal description, drainage and design issues.

The project has proven to be challenging for the town as well as the St James-CCHIP team. After the town identified the site, mindful of NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) issues, the team went door-to-door, inviting all neighbouring property owners to a town-hall meeting.

Out of that meeting came the realization that the town had not done the necessary research, not only on the designated property but also on neighbouring land. It emerged that one owner had established a private driveway on town land.

Canon Davis told Crosstalk that town officials acknowledged in May that they had a mess to clean up that was not of the CCHIP project’s doing. They undertook to do the work during the summer for a meeting in August. But August came and went and nothing was done.

Part of the problem was that the planner was swamped by the demands of a 900-unit for-profit development at a golf course. It is projected to add 1,500 residents to the town but not one unit of affordable housing. The planner is required to respond to inquiries within a short time-frame. Every inquiry represented time away from the St. James-CCHIP project.

Just before the council meeting in October, the town hired an additional planner and expressed confidence that it would have the capacity to handle all projects.

The team made their presence felt by contacting councillors in an effort to prevent further delay.

When the town finally transfers the site on Halton Street, the focus will shift rapidly to financing.

The team plans to ask the town to partner with them and Carebridge in navigating the funding challenge. Carebridge’s experience with the project in Smiths Falls partially financed by St John the Evangelist is seen as a model. Carebridge enlisted Cahdco, the Ottawa non-profit developer for its expertise, and the project is on track for completion in record time.

“The application process is so thorny that you need help from a Cahdco,” Davis says. “Our steering committee could never pull it off and even Carebridge can’t do it themselves.”

He adds that the team hopes to minimize debt by maximizing grants as opposed to loans, while observing that the system works the other way around – favouring loans. This was a key point in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa’s submission to the federal government last year.

Fundraising has always been part of the solution. Immediately after final approval a detailed website will be activated to launch the fundraising campaign. Promises of donations have been made, conditional on the project going ahead.

The waiting list for rent-geared-to-income in Lanark County is more than 470, with 237 in Perth.


  • 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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