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Group requests funding to maximize affordable housing in new project in Orillia


Orillia could be getting more than three-dozen new affordable housing units if one charity's plans fully come to fruition.

Raising the Roof is a national charity that works in communities across Canada. It previously purchased Orillia's Canada Post office, with plans to redevelop the vacant second floor into rental units and will add a third floor with more units.

On Monday, the group made a presentation to city council to acquire financial support and a letter of support from the city for its application for the federal Rapid Housing Initiative program.

"If the city can contribute to this, then it would really mean a huge investment from the federal government into the city of Orillia and really make the project truly, deeply affordable," says Leslie Bellingham, the director of resource development and communications for Raising the Roof.

The amount of funding the city provides has a direct correlation with the number of units that will be affordable. If the city provides the total amount requested, which includes a $10,000 per-door grant, equating to about 2.6 per cent of the total cost, then all 40 units will be affordable. In this plan, the most expensive unit would be $434 a month.

"[That] is going to be really in line with 30 per cent of income for households and core housing need in Orillia, it's in line with OW and ODSP shelter allowances, so it's really creating housing for the most vulnerable residents of Orillia," says Bellingham.

Mayor Don McIsaac said council was intrigued by Monday's proposal, with plans to bring the motion up again at the next council meeting towards the end of January.

"We had a discussion about it," McIsaac says. "The next council meeting, it will be on the agenda, and they will ask for support at that point."

Officials with the project, which will see the Canada Post office remain untouched in its current location, have also asked the County of Simcoe for operational support and capital funding. While a contractor has already been selected, much of the project will be built by Community Builders, which provides employment opportunities to vulnerable people.

"They have a 16-week program for vulnerable people who are at risk of homelessness themselves to really get them experience in the construction sector and to be able to set them up for long-term jobs in the trades," says Bellingham.

Redwood Park Communities is also a partner in the project, says Bellingham. Many of the tenants would be targeted toward people whom Redwood Park is trying to find housing for, including women who are victims of domestic violence.

"So they've helped hundreds of women in this situation in different projects that they have run and secondary suites all throughout Simcoe County, so they would be our main project partner for this and the main kind of tenant group we'd be looking to house at this building, although not necessarily exclusively," says Bellingham.

The presentation for the project came on Monday as council is starting to implement a new schedule for its meetings for this term.

Committee meetings, which deal with new items, will begin at 2 p.m. every other Monday. Those will be followed by a council meeting that will ratify decisions made at the previous committee meetings two weeks earlier. The mayor says it's an effort to give the public more time to have their say on various decisions.

"They talk about sober second thought. I think people need input. We get council agendas; the public gets them on Friday; they have until Monday," McIsaac says. "If things are ratified Monday, they don't really have time to have input, but if they know where council's going…they can at least have time to influence that decision." Top Stories

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