If you build it

If you build it

We applaud the City of Kawartha LakesCounty of Haliburton housing services for hosting an information session Feb. 11 in Haliburton.

The event attracted more than 50 people. There were housing advocates, which is great. But they are the converted. More importantly, housing developers attended. They’re the ones the city and County must convince to invest in affordable housing. And the only real way to entice them is to assure them that there is government money available, and that they can, in time, make some money off of the housing they build.

The hosts came to talk about the new annual Affordable Housing Target Program. This initiative will guide developers through a yearlong process to help them take advantage of all the government financial incentives available to develop affordable housing.

As is sometimes the case with government incentive programs, it takes awhile to get the word out. Builders and developers are so busy, well, building and developing, that they don’t always have the time to research this stuff.

So, having affordable housing program coordinator Elise Karklins on hand, to basically walk developers through the incentives, was good common sense.

The program will accept expressions of interest for several housing types, including new rental and home developments, secondary suites, rent supplements and multi-unit rehabilitation.

Packages will be provided to developers based on their projects and what incentives they seek. After being filled out, the packages will be reviewed by the coordinator and a technical team, before eventually being forwarded to councils for approval.

The amount of funding released by municipalities will depend on how much interest there is.

With the city setting a target of creating an additional 1,280 affordable housing units, and the County 750, over the next 10 years, this is a good first step.

The incentives include a variety of municipal sweeteners and funding programs, many of which are provided as an up-front grant. In general, the amount of incentives or funding available to an applicant is greater based on how long they keep the proposed unit(s) affordable.

Of course, the devil is in the details. How much funding will be provided?

Developers are reminded that the pre-submission process is planned for March, with expressions of interest meetings planned for April. (See related story in today’s edition for more information).

An April 25, 2019, Globe and Mail article outlined really well the National Housing Strategy’s (NHS) key federal funding initiatives. It talks about non-profit WoodGreen Community Services building a new 35-unit housing complex for seniors on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue.

It’s one of the slew of new projects taking advantage of billions of dollars in funding available through the NHS.

Launched in 2017, the $55-billion-plus NHS is the country’s first ever federal housing strategy. Its goals include reducing homelessness by half, removing about 530,000 families from housing need, renovating and modernizing about 300,000 existing homes, and building more than 125,000 new units over the next decade.

One of the key themes is bringing together different parties from public and private sectors, including private developers and non-profit organizations, to tackle this major undertaking.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is the government agency responsible for implementing the lion’s share of the NHS, using grants, loans and incentives.

Each of the federal funding initiatives have been designed to fund sustainable, affordable housing projects that would have otherwise been impossible using traditional financing models.

It’s a welcome program since we all know how desperately more affordable housing is needed here.

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