City’s 10-year homeless plan aims for nearly 1,300 housing units

By William McGinn

The City’s new 10-year homelessness plan, set to be complete by 2029, seeks to build as many as 1,280 new housing units for those with below-average income in Kawartha Lakes and 750 for the County of Haliburton.

It’s a goal that Michelle Corley, program supervisor at Housing Help for Kawartha Lakes and one of the 14 committee members who formed the plan, said was slowed down from the pandemic but still underway.

Two new affordable housing units were recently approved for Kawartha Lakes under the Affordable Housing Target Program, with additional units approved for the County of Haliburton. These two new housing projects are affordable ownership units by Habitat for Humanity in Bobcaygeon, geared to income.

Corley told the Advocate, “We are actively working with other interested proponents who also hope to create affordable housing.”

Of the many planned units for Kawartha Lakes over the new decade, 48 per cent will be for those with low income, 33 per cent for those with middle income, and the other 19 per cent would be for those requiring supportive housing.

Housing Help is just one of several organizations that are part of a national movement through the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Lois Powers, executive director of the John Howard Society of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton, represents another group supporting these housing goals. The John Howard Society supports further housing for locals experiencing — or being threatened with — homelessness, who may be facing troubles, such as unemployment or being widowed.

For Powers, those who the John Howard Society supports includes, but is not limited to, people in the justice system who need to get back on their feet. Both organizations help with homelessness too.

When the Advocate asked Powers where someone in the justice system and out of custody would go in terms of housing, she said “usually they become a roommate, or they go live with a family member.”

“That’s primarily what we see. And the other population, completely separate, who are very high-needs, are people in mental health and substance abuse who are cycling in and out of the justice system and different providers, and they really need supportive housing. There’s this population we continue to see, often the same people over and over, who need 24/7 onsite workers and support. That’s certainly something we’ve seen increase during COVID, particularly the overdose rate. Many of those people are quite isolated and with COVID they’ve been more isolated. We’ve seen an increase in local overdoses, and I think that’s why. They need safe places to live.”

What’s affordable?

According to the current plan, both ownership and rental housing, are said to be affordable if the accommodation costs or rent do not exceed 30 per cent of gross annual household income for low- or moderate-income households. When the project did a local survey, 30 per cent of Kawartha Lakes respondents, 37 per cent of Haliburton respondents and 51 per cent of Lindsay respondents said their annual household income is less than $20,000 per year.

The current plan says those applying today for community households could wait as long as seven years, because there are currently almost 1,700 unique households on the Kawartha Lakes-Haliburton Community Housing waiting list, a 375 per cent increase since 2013.

“The lack of…rental (homes) has been and continues to be of concern in both Kawartha Lakes and the County,” reads the plan. “The vacancy rate has remained low for several years as supply is not keeping up with demand. The continued focus of single detached homes making up the majority of the living spaces will only escalate an already critical rental housing situation.”

Alison Stagg is program manager at Fourcast Addiction Services, which specializes in helping those with addictions like alcohol or gambling.

“Kawartha Lakes Housing is a very active partner in developing affordable housing,” said Staff, “and prioritizing highly marginalized and persons experiencing homelessness. All communities and cities are struggling with affordable housing throughout the country, especially now, so Kawartha Lakes is not unique. What is unique is Kawartha Lakes’ commitment to partner with local community agencies and they are very successful in committing to projects that create affordable housing.”

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