Housing Summit gathers organizers to discuss solutions
By Sue Tiffin
Haliburton County has a need for affordable housing for people in a broad scope of circumstances looking for homes including young families, the elderly, people with disabilities, job applicants, and the homeless population.
Despite the recent approval of a 10-year-plan for 750 affordable rental units by county council for the community, more is needed, according to organizers of the Haliburton County Housing Summit who filled a room full of organizers, local politicians and community members when they hosted the event held Oct. 18 at the West Guilford Community Centre.
Hope Lee, chief executive officer of the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation, and manager housing services, City of Kawartha Lakes, presented on the nature of housing issues in Haliburton County, and the work done locally in creating housing developments, and improving access to affordable housing and support, as well as an overview of how the 10-year target was set.
Bob Carter, chairman of the Minden Hills housing task force and also Minden Hills councillor, spoke to the need for what he calls “appropriate housing,” to offer housing solutions for young families, the elderly, those who want to downsize and those who don’t qualify for assistance but can’t afford the available housing in the community.
Carter said the most unique thing about the major housing problem in the county, is that, “it’s solvable, and we know how to do it. We need to build housing. I hate to make it sound that simple, but it really is.”
He applauded the work of the KLHHC and others who have embarked on similar projects, but said there isn’t a long line of developers waiting to build in Haliburton County.
“My feeling ... if we want this done, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. In Haliburton, housing is the responsibility of the county, but that doesn’t mean the municipalities are off the hook.”
He proposed a call to arms of sorts, suggesting that each of the municipalities create a housing task force in order to work together generating potential solutions, noting there is funding available, but “the resource then that we need the most is dedicated people who want to help solve this problem.”
In a panel moderated by Fay Martin called “Concrete Examples of Housing Models Being Considered,” presenters spoke to unique housing initiatives taking place or potentially available to the community.
After hearing of the need for housing, Bill Switzer has donated a piece of land in Minden making it possible to build 32 highly energy-efficient units, anticipated by 2022.
Irene Gerber, after becoming tuned in to the needs of seniors as her own family aged, spoke to the eight-plex project built on Bobcaygeon Road in Minden and announced the building of nine additional units, all on one floor, to be built in the former Minden Animal Hospital available next year.
Phil McKenzie discussed the 120-unit retirement residence planned to open in late 2020 at 1 Sunnyside Street in Haliburton.
Gord Forbes shared his experiences in creating a secondary suite on his property, which created a home suitable for his daughter and her family, freed up a property in the county – that otherwise would have been used by his daughter – for someone else, and secured his aging in place strategy. He said besides those advantages, he gets to see his grandkids come home from school, and eat dinner with his family. The secondary suite program offered through the Kawartha Lakes Housing Help team provides homeowners forgivable interest-free loans to assist in the creation of a second unit.
Greg Bishop discussed the student housing project near the Haliburton School of Art + Design/Fleming College campus, designed to address a need for nearby accommodation for students attending classes at those campuses.
Benefits of co-housing and homesharing were addressed by Kristina Nairn, HKPR social determinants of health nurse, while Sarah Burke, from Habitat for Humanity Peterborough and Kawartha Region, spoke to the advent of multi-residential projects for the organization, including a 41-unit building offering universal design, in order to keep up with housing needs.
While much work has been done, attendees agreed more was needed, especially for the county’s marginalized population.
Marilynne Lesperance, of the Minden Community Food Centre and Community Kitchen gave insight into the harsh realities of local homelessness and how work at the centre relates to the chronic housing shortage in Haliburton County. She said affordable – but also clean, respectable accommodation, is needed for people experiencing homelessness, which she stressed does exist in Haliburton County even if it’s not always seen.
Breakout sessions in the afternoon brought discussion of retirement homes; small home rental and small home owned; secondary suites; housing task forces and co-housing, home sharing.
Speakers also discussed support and funding options available including community bonds.
The event was organized by Aging Well Haliburton County, CARP Chapter 54 and Places for People with support from HCDC.