The elimination of long-term homelessness is a key goal of the St. Thomas housing plan

city_scope_logo-cmykHow do you determine what market value rent is? And, who determines that?
It was a good question from Coun. Jim Herbert at the Aug. 9 city council meeting and was prompted by the 2020 Progress Report on the city’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan.
It’s a question that has been raised in comments from readers of this corner.
Danielle Neilson is the city’s Homelessness and Housing Supervisor and the report in question noted the city owns and manages 558 units of housing, including 512 units of rent-geared-to-income housing.
That’s a significant number and it’s part of the role of the St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Department to administer and/or deliver “a range of housing and homelessness programs including existing social housing, new affordable housing, rent supplements, housing allowances, portable housing benefits, home repair assistance, homeownership down-payment assistance, funding for emergency shelters and transitional housing, and other homelessness prevention programs including the Housing Links for People (HeLP) program.

Here’s the response from Neilson to Coun. Herbert’s query.
“The amounts that are applied to market rent and affordable housing are established through the earmarks that are provided to us through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on an annual basis.”
She continued, “They do an evaluation of rent in our area and then provide us with what they see as market rent.”
Neilson explained affordable is defined as 80 per cent of what the above mentioned market rent is.

St. Thomas housing plan graphicHerbert went on to note the 16 micro-apartments under construction on the second floor of the downtown transit building. The units are described as supported housing.
He wondered “is the city putting money into helping people pay” to live in these units?
Neilson advised “A portion of any assisted funding that the person might be receiving, for example from Ontario Works that is earmarked for rent, that person is required to pay that portion toward their rent.
“Any increased funding required to meet the amount of rent they are asked to provide to Indwell is balanced through a grant and funding opportunity we received through Back to Home.”
That funding is provided for the operational costs to ensure the housing units are supportive and built into that, advised Neilson, “is also an amount that is earmarked as a housing allowance to top up the difference between their shelter portion and what their rent on the unit is.”
Just to backtrack for clarity, in January of this year, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with Indwell Community Homes to develop supportive housing projects.
Indwell is a Christian-based charity that has built supportive housing for more than 700 individuals in London, Woodstock, Simcoe and Hamilton.
The first joint effort with the city is the construction of the 16 micro-apartments on the second floor of the Talbot Street transit building.
They will also manage Phase 2 of the social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street, with construction expected to begin later this year, according to city manager Wendell Graves.

Related posts:

So, who really is behind the wheel of the city hall bus? It may not be who you think.

A caring environment in a stable, permanent home is the foundation for transformation in people’s lives


Still with housing, last month Southwestern Public Health issued a Section 13 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to close Walnut Manor in St. Thomas due to the existence of significant health hazards.
Peter Heywood, program director of environmental health at Southwestern Public Health noted, “This was an unfit, unsafe environment for living, and not at the standard expected of a supportive living facility.”

20 jt 04 walnutmanorjpg

Walnut Manor, St. Thomas

The facility will not reopen until the health unit is satisfied all requested remedial work has been completed.
But if you remember, we posted last week about a break-in at the facility operated by and that leads to the question, have they walked away from Walnut Manor?
So, we called Heywood again yesterday (Aug. 20) for an update.
He advised, “The order prescribed under the Health Protection and Promotion Act remains in place. And that has not changed.”
Heywood went on to confirm he has not received any notification from to advise remediation has occurred “and that they are requiring a re-inspection of that facility. And we haven’t received that yet.”
Has the look and feel of doing a runner and leaving behind more than a dozen vulnerable residents who, fortunately, have been relocated.

Related post:

A Section 13 closure order for Walnut Manor – ‘This was an unfit, unsafe environment for living’


A funding announcement a week ago bodes well for the airport and the region in general.
St. Thomas Municipal Airport has landed a $1.1 million investment to improve operations at the municipally owned facility. The FedDev Ontario funding is to support regional connectivity and jobs for economic recovery.
The money will be used to construct 8,000 square metres of ramp space to accommodate the parking, fueling and servicing of regional aircraft. It is hoped the investment will encourage industrial clients to locate near the airport and throughout Elgin county.
The city had applied for the funding due to the arrival of Smart Aviation Maintenance which is leasing hangar space to undertake aircraft maintenance.
Passion Air St. Thomas Municipal AirportTheir first project was working on a pair of planes owned by Bombardier Capital of Canada. Passion Air of Ghana, West Africa had leased the planes from the company in 2018. They were built in Canada by Bombardier (see photo).
In a conversation earlier this week with city manager Wendell Graves, he explained “it has to do with some of the enhancements out at the airport and with the new business we have there as well.
“We determined we needed more space to park the planes.”
Graves continued, “I think we’re going to have an excellent relationship with them (Smart Aviation) for a lengthy period of time. Those details are just being firmed up.”
We may not evolve into the Aircraft Capital of Canada, however, Graves observed “It’s great to have the business there.”
And which will require highly-skilled individuals to work on the planes coming in for maintenance.


Not likely a household name in St. Thomas.
Afeez Ajibowu is the name you put your mark beside if you are a Liberal supporter seeking to upset incumbent Karen Vecchio.
What’s that? You say you’ve heard that name just recently.
You’re spot on.
Ajibowu lost – lost, mind you – in the Liberal nomination race in London West.
So, let’s submit his name as the Liberal candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London for next month’s federal vote.
What happens? Ajibowu is acclaimed on Thursday (Aug. 19).
Is the Liberal cupboard bare down here?
Has there been no one warming up in the bullpen over the last year?
Navdeep Bains, National Campaign co-chair for the Liberal party noted, “As we look forward to the important work ahead of us, the hope and hard work of Liberals across Canada will ensure our candidates and teams are ready to run competitive campaigns, and earn another mandate from Canadians – including right here in Elgin—Middlesex—London.”
Acclaimed. Or did someone in the Liberal party’s higher echelon override a local decision?
As one wag noted, “Karen will be drinking champagne tonight.”
Strange days indeed.


In recognition of the rather snarky comment on our Facebook page this past week from Leith Coghlin regarding feedback from readers on Mayor Joe Preston’s reaction to the Moms Stop The Harm petition, we are renaming this portion of the City Scope blog The Echo Chamber. The comment in question from Leith Coghlin is printed below.

“Shots fired in anger at Joe Preston, such as the rounds being launched in echo chambers like this, not only miss the target, they’re total blanks.
“No Mayor, in such a short time, has secured more for so many across the age, gender, sexuality, mental and physical health spectrum than Joe. I would note none of his critics dare enumerate any of the long list of what has happened here since 2018, including any awareness of what has happened outside of public view and the criticism he’s endured, to get more when others said don’t bother.
“Joe cares about results. He’s delivered. But you all carry on with bald statements and ‘outrage.’
“And no matter how much more outraged you become, it doesn’t make any of the faulty arguments I’ve observed in this insignificant debate on a tactic any more accurate, fair or relevant. Peace.”

Things escalated from there, with this comment from Deb Hardy.

“Are you kidding me, Preston? You wanna keep passing the buck? We ARE in crisis mode. Get us help NOW!!”

Well, that prompted a quick response from the mayor himself.

“Deb Hardy I will not support some of this resolution ( did you read what is being asked) from a group in British Columbia to send a letter to the Federal government to do a better job. I will do that directly. And LOUDLY. And HAVE.”

And, away we go. Leticia Amanda checked in with the following.

“Leith Coghlin we need as many voices as we can get to support and name the issues people are facing. The more we call it out and ask for change as a collective of communities, the less provincial and federal can ignore.
“This was a brave and bold move that needed to be done. Now we can echo the voices of others make a louder call for help which we so desperately need.
“No more ignoring that our citizens are dying, and if that is as far as this gets, it proves that St. Thomas cares deeply for the struggles many are facing.”

She continued with this in a follow-up comment.

“Leith Coghlin this isn’t about Joe.
“This is about people dying.
Sure the resolution originated in BC, but many echo what is in it as a way forward.
The more people who are bold enough to stand behind communities shrouded in grief the better. More allies always welcome, no matter where they stand in levels of government.
“There has been a significant amount of work that has gone on to better our community, and that isn’t just because of one man.
“It is the work of many, just like getting out of this crisis will take. The more we can name it, work on it, destigmatize it, and listen to the frontlines the better.
“We need many eyes, minds, and voices to build our way out of this. This resolution is a good step forward, and I’m proud it has been echoed and completed.”

Morgan Niederman offered a similar sentiment.

“We need commitment from all levels of government to ensure that federal and provincial efforts will be supported and implemented.
“It is also, to be blunt, the streets of this city that people are dying on, and so who better to formally recognize the crisis?
“Caring for our neighbours is a local issue.
“It’s wonderful that 8 members of council were able to support this measure. We can only hope our next mayor will show the same willingness to help.”

Jaime Burns also had praise for the councillors who supported the motion.

“Leith Coghlin, 8 of his council colleagues voted to pass the motion and Joe voted against it. That speaks pretty loudly for everyone that’s been involved in this fight at the ground level.”

And, more pushback, this time from Sue Margetts.

“Leith Coghlin, not once have you mentioned Jeff Yurek in any of this. Jeff is the heavy lifter. Nobody in public office is able to dodge criticism, it’s the nature of the beast . . .”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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