In December of 2021, the partners involved in Project Tiny Hope – YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin, Doug Tarry Homes and Sanctuary Homes – requested $3 million in funding from the city for the imaginative project at 21 Kains Street.
What will the affordable housing look like?
“The creation of new YWCA rental units will be inclusive to diverse populations from all walks of life,” advised Lindsay Rice, YWCA executive director in the support case for the undertaking released in December of 2022.
It is to be “A mix of one, two and three-bedroom rental units will accommodate adults, youth and families.
“Each tiny home will be equipped with a full kitchen, bathroom, laundry, private bedrooms and living room providing dignity and comfort.”
Just over a year after the release of the project information, city council will return to the $3 million funding request at Monday’s (Feb. 13) council meeting.
At that time, Heather Sheridan, director of St. Thomas Elgin Social Services, recommends council approve the request in principle, “contingent on a successful outcome from the Rapid Housing Initiative application process and the provincial contribution request.”
More on those funding requests in the item below.
Sheridan’s report to council contains an itemized summary of the project:
•40 units of supportive, affordable housing:
– 20 one bedroom
– 14 two bedroom
– 6 three-bedroom units
• Case management and support onsite.
• Built to Net Zero-ready standards.
• Naturalized playground and gardens.
• Owned and operated by the YWCA.
• Priority populations:
– 50% allocated to women/women-led families.
– 10% allocated for Indigenous People.
– 25% allocated for youth ages 16-24.
The total project cost comes in at $14.7 million.
Next month, Rice will file the CMHC Rapid Housing Initiative application for $6.7 million.
She has requested $3 million from the province and now $3 million from the city.
The target for the community fundraising campaign is $2 million.
Contributions received to date include $780,000 from Doug Tarry Homes, $250,000 from Sanctuary Homes and miscellaneous other donations and gifts in kind.
The ask from the city would be accomplished through reserves and/or short-term borrowing.
An agreement committing to the maintenance of affordable and supportive housing would be a condition of funding approval.
Sheridan concludes in her report to council, “The 40 units being proposed by the YWCA will make a significant difference in our community however there is much more work to be done.
“The city is committed to all forms of housing development, including affordable and supportive housing. It is anticipated that there will be future funding requests from other proponents to develop affordable and supportive housing.
“There is also an ongoing review of city-owned housing to determine potential for future development.”
Subject to funding approvals, the housing units are to be completed by December 2024.
Project Tiny Hope: ‘More than just housing, it’s a new beginning’
BRIGHTENING LIVES – BUILDING COMMUNITY
This past week it was announced Doug Tarry Homes had donated $500,000 to the YWCA capital campaign for Project Tiny Hope.
He previously contributed $280,000 for the cleanup of the brownfield site at 21 Kains Street, the former home of Elgin Handles.
Tarry has continuously preached that we need more people living in the downtown core.
Rice advises the local fundraising campaign wraps up at the end of this month.
“We are advocating with all levels of government and we are also seeking community donations.
“And we are also seeking community donations. Our goal is $1.5 million.”
The report to council noted above pegs that figure at $2 million.
Rice continues, “We are looking at an application to CMHC through the federal government for a Rapid Housing Initiative grant and we’re just tidying up those final numbers to put that application together.
“The deadline is March 15 and we have of course met with (MP) Karen Vecchio and we have also met with MPP Rob Flack with the provincial ask.”
While she completes those funding applications, Rice notes behind the scenes critical groundwork is being undertaken.
“Our site plan has been finalized and submitted to the City of St. Thomas.”
That was to be reviewed at a meeting held via video on Thursday.
This past Monday (Feb. 6) council approved two bylaws dealing with zoning and site plan amendments for the property.
“So, all of those red tape pieces are all coming along,” confirmed Rice.
“The only piece we’re waiting for is our record of site condition from the Ministry of Environment.”
Rice stresses these homes may be tiny but hold a big vision for the development of a stronger and more vibrant city.
OPIOID CRISIS HITTING HOME
Southwestern Public Health is beginning to test the water on the need, support and feasibility of a safe consumption site in its coverage region.
Determining the feasibility of a consumption and treatment centre is in response to the “devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities,” resulting from the opioid crisis, advises Dr. Ninh Tran, medical officer of health.
He adds, “It is a crisis that affects everyone, not only those living in large urban centres. COVID-19 exacerbated this crisis, and we have observed an increase in overdose deaths locally.”
There is a significant red flag in our own backyard.
In the course of 12 months (April 2020 to March 2021), there were 43 opioid-related deaths in the health unit’s coverage area.
That’s 20.5 deaths per 100,000 population, greater than the provincial average of 18.7 per 100,000 population.
“While we cannot speculate what the feasibility study data will say, we know that conducting this study is a critical step to addressing such a complex public health concern.”
A feasibility study is now underway and according to a media release, “The health unit has formed an external advisory committee to consult with local figures from various sectors.
“These groups include community agencies, business associations and local chambers of commerce, emergency services, healthcare providers, Indigenous organizations, municipal departments, local politicians, people with lived experience of substance use, and public health alongside its Board of Health.”
Focus groups and interviews are now underway and a survey will be issued later this month inviting public input.
The results of the survey will be made public.
Data collected through the committee’s work is expected to be completed by the end of next month with a report expected later in the year.
“While we cannot speculate what the feasibility study data will say, we know that conducting this study is a critical step to addressing such a complex public health concern,” says Dr. Tran.
The health unit advises, “Consumption and treatment services provide comprehensive, compassionate, and evidence-based services that support prevention, harm reduction, and treatment for people who use drugs.”
THERE’S INTEREST BUT NO DONE DEAL
We touched bases with Sean Dyke, CEO of St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. earlier this week while he was in Toronto for the Economic Developers Council of Ontario annual conference.
The perfect opportunity for an update on the status of the 800-acre parcel of land the city has assembled east of Highbury Avenue.
“There’s been quite a bit of interest from a number of different companies in that land,” advised Dyke.
“There’s certainly no done deal that I can speak to but certainly we are out marketing it and hopefully we will have a resolution to at least some of that (land) in the next little while.
“Hopefully in the next four to six months.”
Dyke pointed out, “There is not a lot of available land in the province, particularly of the size we are marketing.
“So, we are in a very good position right now to attract something.
“Of course, being in the location we are in with the labour force that we have, it is developing over time and I really think there is going to be something good in the future for St. Thomas and the whole region.”
As an aside, while at the conference, Dyke was elected president of the council’s board of directors for a one-year term.
The organization’s mission is to support municipalities across the province in fostering economic prosperity.
Land acquisition sends a clear message St. Thomas is actively seeking to attract a significant manufacturing investment
THE ECHO CHAMBER
A winning suggestion was emailed in from Dave Mathers regarding the city’s emergency shelter, The Inn.
“I would suggest that to solve the problems with The Inn location, the city buy the old Weatherhead plant which has a fenced-in side and back yard.
“People could ‘camp’ outside yet still use the facilities for food and washrooms. They could enter off Woodworth thus saving the homes out front from problems.
“This location is close to the Walmart complex and would solve the ongoing problems experienced by the downtown merchants and residents.
And resources wouldn’t be wasted on tearing down ‘encampments’ as has been happening.
“Win, win, win, win.”
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