A major shuffle in the works next month as the local housing corporation is to be incorporated into city operations in an effort to create “efficiencies.”
This according to city manager Wendell Graves, who explained Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation — which owns and manages 512 assisted (rent geared-to-income) rental units and 18 low-end of market units throughout St. Thomas and Elgin county — will be brought “under the city’s umbrella.”
In a conversation this week, Graves noted, “We’ve had a series of reports that actually go back to last fall. We announced we are going to take a look at integrating Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation under the city’s umbrella . . . and now we’re looking at a mid-September implementation date.”
So what will this entail?
“As part of that the strategy in terms of the housing corporation itself, the individuals tied directly to helping the residents of the affordable housing units, the client side of it, will be working out of the Ontario Works office,” advised Graves.
If not mistaken, Ontario Works — housed in the Mickleborough at 423 Talbot Street — is a little cramped for space and the lease on this Shmuel Farhi-owned building expires next year.
The property is part of a proposed deal with the London developer that doesn’t appear to have a lot of traction at this point. If you remember the city would like to convert this stately structure into some form of housing — a blend of affordable housing and market-value apartments.
You have to ask why move more people into a property that appears to have limited potential in its current role?
But there’s more to this integration, which Graves elaborates upon.
“On the property side, we’re creating a new enhanced property division so that all the property assets for both the existing city stock and housing will come under one umbrella. That will fall under parks, recreation and property.”
Ross Tucker and staff already are comfortable with the increased responsibility, Graves advises.
“The parks department has been looking after our city properties for well over a year. There is staff at housing that deal with the property side of it and we’re bringing them (three staff) under one office. So there will be no new staff.”
“And the finance person at the housing corporation will be merged into our finance department here at city hall,” adds Graves.
What is driving all of this?
“It’s for efficiencies and also we’re taking cues from the province. They’re really wanting to streamline how we can assist the clients we mutually serve. Because in many cases it’s the same clients that go to different offices to deal with affordable housing and social assistance issues so that’s all going to bundle under one umbrella.
“And we can have some efficiencies with common contracts for various property issues we’re dealing with.”
The integration process with the housing corporation and city council has been “amicable” to date, assures Graves.
Are Ontario works staff sharing this warm and fuzzy feeling?
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A QUESTION FOR YA
Still with social housing, do you think the good people over at Ontario Works have been kept up to speed on the status of Barbara Arbuckle, hired in 2011 as director at Ontario Works and now, in essence, missing in action?
FUTURE PARK BUILDS ON THE PAST
Today’s story on the proposed Railway Park documents a spectacular transformation of barren brownfield into “a central park for all ages, with the ability to provide event space, recreation activities, and extend the heritage culture of the Elgin County Railway Museum,” according to a release.
The accompanying drawings are to daydream over. Posters on the T-J Facebook page are in agreement.
Mike Smout gets right to the point. “Beautiful, that’s all I can say, just beautiful!”
Ronald Oldfield adds, “As I approach my mid 70’s I longingly look and picture such a structure at the corner of Talbot and Ross. I hope this opportunity is not passed up!”
He adds, “I feel we’re at the point where very strong city leadership and vision is needed to take advantage of what private planning and ownership is providing local tourism. Why is the city afraid of open discussion on the topic of a hotel?”
There are detractors in every crowd, as witnessed by this from Richard Strachan. “Will it generate enough money to pay for itself? No, then don’t make taxpayers pay to keep it maintained.”
Prompting this comeback from Rob Sterne. “The same type of individual who would complain about the condition of the land if the museum did nothing to it. They can’t win.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
A wise man once said to me ‘if you make enough money to pay for your mistakes you get to stay in business.’”
St. Thomas independent trucker Bill Pruim in an interview with the Times-Journal.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope