Non-profit Places for People (P4P) has organized a community housing summit for April 5, bringing in guest speakers from across Ontario to share ideas on how to overcome one of the region’s most pressing issues.

Fay Martin, P4P vice president, said the event was borne out of necessity with the County’s existing housing inventory “falling drastically short” of what’s needed.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration because we keep going around and around on housing, but because nobody owns the problem, we never seem to get anywhere,” Martin said. “We have [KLH Housing Corporation] for social housing, but there’s nothing for all the other kinds of housing, no authority driving things.”

She said the aim is to bring together people from other areas who have had success creating housing through a variety of creative means, and finding out how it can be done in Haliburton County.

The summit will take place at the Minden Community Centre and will feature keynote and closing speakers and three panel discussions.

Jennifer van Gennip, of Redwood Park Communities in Barrie, will share how her organization built 49 affordable housing units between 2009 and 2019. Martin said the YIMBY – Yes In My Backyard – campaign Redwood pioneered has taken off provincewide. Van Gennip will provide details on how that initiative helped foster positive discussions between would-be developers and concerned citizens.

The first panel will focus on worker housing, with speakers from Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride, and Rodco Enterprise discussing how they were able to overcome labour challenges by providing accommodation for some employees.

A discussion on private housing options for seniors will feature Bill Mardimae from the Gardens of Haliburton; Anna Schmiegelow, of Oakview Lodge, on how they successfully created a co-living community; for-profit developers, John and Irene Gerber, about how they were able to bring 17 affordable apartments to Minden in the mid-to-late 2010s; and Dr. Nell Thomas on projects such as the Gardens, which provide health and wellness services on-site, having a positive impact on the public health system.

The final panel will focus on finances, with Habitat for Humanity sending a representative to unpack a new hybrid mortgage model the organization uses to make home ownership viable. Martin will discuss community bonds, and how investment at the grassroots level could help non-profits follow through on housing builds.

Lori-Anne Gagne, CEO of Victoria Park Community Homes, and Graham Cubitt of Hamilton-based non-profits Flourish and Indwell will close the day. The three organizations have helped bring thousands of affordable housing units to the GTA.

The event is being sponsored by the Haliburton County Development Corporation, Minden Hills and Algonquin Highlands, and media partners including The Highlander. Martin has invited MP Jamie Schmale, MPP Laurie Scott, and local councillors.

Martin added all levels of government, nonprofits and private developers need to work together to bolster housing stock.

In his 2021 report Baby Needs a New Home, London-based economist Mike Moffatt estimated around 1,200 new homes needed to be built in the County by 2031 to keep up with predicted population changes. KLH Housing Corporation has said it needed to build 750 affordable units in the Highlands by 2029 to meet expected demand.

“We’re already in a dangerous situation with our lack of housing. Unless we see real movement, and soon, I worry about the long-term future of our community, and our residents,” Martin said.