It has been a significant week for housing news in St. Thomas.
A pair of announcements mid-week covered off a broad swath of the residential spectrum.
At Wednesday’s site plan control committee meeting, conditional approval was granted to Fast Forward Ventures of London for their 14-storey, 162-unit apartment building to rise on the south end of the former Timken Canada property near the intersection of First Avenue and Talbot Street.
The Timken plant closed in 2013 and was demolished and the site cleared in 2017.
The next day, the province announced $3 million in funding to develop 20 supportive housing units inside Phase 2 of the city’s social services and housing hub now under construction at 16 Queen Street.
Let’s take a closer look at both developments – which Mayor Joe Preston described as “one more step in attacking the city’s housing shortage.”
How 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.
While talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year. And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time. Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario. On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal. The outstanding issue remains wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours. Continue reading →
At its May 22 meeting, council will be asked to approve an amendment to the Waste Diversion and Curbside Collection bylaw, with regards to used needles. According to a report from Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, in the past year there have been three incidents of needles found in curbside waste. Under the current bylaw, used needles are a designated hazardous waste under the Environmental Protection Act and are prohibited from being collected at the curb in the regular waste stream. Shannon stresses improperly disposed of needles and drug equipment pose a health hazard to the public, garbage collection staff, and municipal employees. Continue reading →
The governing bodies of the health units in St. Thomas/Elgin and Oxford county on Jan. 10 approved proceeding to the next level in merging the two bodies. Locally, the health unit is the governing body and so municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin were not involved in any vote to move forward with the merger, whereas in Oxford the county serves as the governing body and municipal council had to approve a motion to proceed. To be known as Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, the new entity would serve approximately 204,000 residents. A new, autonomous board would be composed of four representatives from Oxford and two each from St. Thomas and Elgin county. Continue reading →
Vishal Chityal, owner of Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, was the subject of discussion in the Ontario Legislature on May 18, 2017. We have focused on the supportive living facility the past couple of weeks and again four years ago when the kitchen was shut down by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health. Here are excerpts from the Hansard transcript from that day featuring an impassioned presentation from Welland MPP Cindy Forster, author of private member’s Bill 135, an act to establish a framework for the licensing of supportive living accommodation. More details on Bill 135 in a moment, but first here is MPP Forster’s back story on Chityal. Continue reading →
With a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case. Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well. Start probing. For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275.Continue reading →
It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?
The cuts to staff and programs at Community Living Elgin are nothing short of devastating.
And the union’s call to action urging Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek to audit the organization’s leadership, finances and operations in a bid to bring meaningful change must not go unheeded.
OPSEU vice-president Ron Elliott ups the ante even further.
“We’ve called for the minister to put Community Living Elgin in trusteeship. To take it over, to put in a monitor.”
Citing a $700,000 deficit, the organization plans to eliminate 17 full-time positions — 64 staff cuts in total — as well as close the drop-in centre at the Talbot Teen Centre, eliminate the day support programming at 2 Curtis St., and shut down a group home on East St.
The dire situation prompted Karen Barr, whose sister has been a client of Community Living Elgin for many years and who will be negatively impacted by the cuts, to forward a copy of a letter our way addressed to executive director Tom McCallum (no relation), several directors, board president Bob Ashcroft and MPP Jeff Yurek. Continue reading →