Aerial view of the former St. Agnes Catholic School. (Photo courtesy of SCCDSB).Aerial view of the former St. Agnes Catholic School. (Photo courtesy of SCCDSB).

CK council being asked to dig deep to support affordable housing

Chatham-Kent councillors are about to be asked for a huge financial commitment to secure an affordable housing project in Chatham.

Council will be asked to commit to $9.69 million at its meeting Monday night to move ahead with plans for 95 supportive affordable housing units at 55 Croydon Street in Chatham, the former St. Agnes school.

There's a growing need for supportive housing across Chatham-Kent. About 500 people experienced homelessness across Chatham-Kent in 2021 and at least three people access emergency housing each week for the first time, according to the Municipality. The municipality has found that market rents have doubled in the last four years, but incomes have not.

The total rental vacancy rate locally is only 2 per cent and the annual household incomes in Chatham-Kent are about 25 per cent lower than the Ontario average, according to a presentation about supportive housing and Indwell set to be given to councillors by Director of Employment and Social Services Polly Smith Monday evening. The municipality also noted that approximately 10,000 residents are surviving on social assistance.

Smith's presentation shows that the Indwell project will reduce the need for emergency shelter and will result in a shorter wait for supportive housing. She will also tell council that the proposed housing units will improve renting and reduce evictions.

The presentation will also show that building and investing in supportive housing leads to individual benefits, economic spin off, and cost savings to the tax payer.

A study found that for every $10 invested in supportive housing results in an average of $21.72 in savings related to health care, social supports, housing, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

The Canadian Mental Health Association also outlines that for every $1 invested into housing construction, there is a $1.52 multiplier effect on the local economy.

The General Manager of Community Human Services and the Chief Financial Officer are also looking for the authority to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Indwell Community Homes to collaborate on submitting the necessary applications for the project and outline further detailed agreements which would be needed between the parties.

The Director of Housing Services also needs the green light to submit an application to the Rapid Housing Initiative for the units due by March 15, 2023.

The municipality is also looking for funding, provincial or otherwise, for the construction and operation of the Croydon Street project. The municipality is funded by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for homelessness prevention, but not for supportive housing.

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