Hope Lee retires: City’s progressive housing stance a reflection of Lee’s leadership

By Roderick Benns

It was always a little bit personal for Hope Lee. After 34 years with the city’s housing division, Hope Lee retires in May. She traces her a career path back to her childhood, a time when she lived in public housing in Lindsay for several years.

When Lee was living in a single parent family in one of the very units that the city still owns, Zita Devan, founder of A Place Called Home, the city’s homeless shelter, set Lee on the path she’d stay on for more than three decades. Devan helped get Lee a work placement in what was then the Victoria Haliburton Housing Authority in 1986 through a Fleming College program. Lee was hired full time in 1987.

Later, the name changed to Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation when social housing was transferred from the province to municipalities in 2001, part of the significant downloading of responsibilities to municipalities that occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“While some may have seen that transfer in a more negative light, I’ve never felt that way,” Hope tells the Advocate. “It opened up my position to be able to focus not only on the actual housing corporation but local affordable housing and homelessness overall.”

She says she has felt “blessed to have a career I’ve enjoyed and where I can help people.”

Great working relationships and a feeling of support from her director, the Kawartha Lakes Housing board, administration, and councils in both Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County have made her job easier and more fulfilling.

“I’m proud overall of the progress made in this community when it comes to housing and homelessness. There are amazing community partners and advocates,” Lee says.

Under Lee’s oversight, Kawartha Lakes has been a progressive leader when it comes to housing. The city, for instance, is one of only 33 municipalities in Canada to attempt to end chronic homelessness through Built for Zero, an initiative to help a core group of leading communities create a template for the rest of the country for ending homelessness.

Lee says she’s proud to have led numerous new developments that have been successfully built or are in the midst of being built.

“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of new affordable units be built and occupied — in many cases providing homes to those who hadn’t had a place of their own in quite some time.”

She also cites the redevelopment of the emergency shelter, A Place Called Home, as a big accomplishment and calls APCH a “significant partner” to the city and a key resource to those experiencing homelessness in our community.

“It has been rewarding” to work with APCH’s team, she says, to assist in securing some of the funding to help make the redevelopment possible.

After Lee was hired by the city, Devan says she spent years sitting on committees with her, always with the goal of improving social housing and affordable housing in general.

“I have witnessed her grow in knowledge and commitment, always keeping in mind the needs of community and the opportunities available to the city. She will be missed,” says Devan.

As for what’s next on her radar in retirement, Lee says she’s looking forward to more family time and more time to travel. “While COVID will restrict that initially, I’ll enjoy my household family and some limited travel either at our trailer or in our motorhome.”

When she thinks back to her journey from childhood until now, Lee says she feels fortunate to have been able to give back to her community.

“I was born in Lindsay and had a place to call home because there was safe and affordable housing made available to us. How lucky was I to be given the opportunity to work for the same organization that assisted us in more difficult times, and (then) manage and increase housing opportunities for others?”

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