Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 20, 2024
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Arrested Development

County's plans for 100 affordable residential units at former Queen Elizabeth school declined by Federal Government
<p>County of Prince Edward Director of Housing Adam Goheen, Affordable Housing Supervisor Elis Ziegler,<br />
Councillor Phil St. Jean and Mayor Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
County of Prince Edward Director of Housing Adam Goheen, Affordable Housing Supervisor Elis Ziegler, Councillor Phil St. Jean and Mayor Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

In November, the County submitted an ambitious application to the federal Housing Accelerator Fund for $14.2 million seeking support for several initiatives from the Affordable Housing Corporation. The redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth School, the extension of the secondary suite program, and investment in transitional and worker housing topped the list.

At the time CAO Marcia Wallace noted that several other municipalities in the east region had been declined, and expressed hope that this meant that PEC was “still in the running.”

Last week, the County learned that its application was unsuccessful.

Mayor Steve Ferguson, Adam Goheen and Ellis Ziegler from the PEC Housing Department, and Councilor Phil St. Jean, chair of the Affordable Housing Corporation, held a press conference to announce the news.

“The initiatives contained within the application would have helped us take big strides forward with our County Housing Plan, including supporting rental housing/second suites, transitional housing, public- private partnerships, and flexible zoning tools, to name a few,” said Mr. Ferguson.

“The flagship piece of our HAF application was to allow the municipality to acquire the Queen Elizabeth School property on Barker Street in Picton to create affordable housing units and a community hub for much needed local services,” he noted.

That project has been underway since 2019, supported by the previous Council, the Affordable Housing Corporation, MPP Todd Smith, the Hastings and Prince Edward School Board, and the Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.

Mr. Ferguson insisted the flagship project was still “very much alive.”

“We are not giving up,” added Mr. St. Jean. “I can assure the public all efforts are going to be made to move forward. This is an opportunity we can’t miss.”

But it now needs rethinking. A staff report on April 11 will present strategies for moving ahead to acquire the QE property, which has a price tag of $1.3 million.

Other programs that were included in the funding application are already underway and will continue to operate at a smaller scale.

Other projects with applications in the works, such as the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator application for Base31, Leeward House, and the H.J. McFarland Home, are not affected by this decision.

Mayor Ferguson suggested the playing field for applications for federal Housing funding was uneven. “I see a troubling trend with the distribution of this funding, one that threatens to leave behind rural communities.

“The County of Prince Edward was forced to apply under the ‘Large/Urban’ application stream of HAF because our population is greater than 10,000 people. The vast majority of funding in this stream has gone to large urban centres. Only two rural Ontario municipalities have been awarded funding in this stream, for a total of $12 million of the $3.5 billion awarded to date.”

PEC’s relatively small request “could have been transformational.”

“I am calling on CMHC and the Government of Canada to review this program and any future programs under the National Housing Strategy. I urge them to make the distribution of funds more equitable across communities of all sizes. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, and the Government of Canada’s approach risks leaving many rural residents without a place to call home.”

Mayor Ferguson has had conversations with other rural municipalities who have been declined FAH funding. “We’re in the same boat. In smaller ways we are experiencing exactly the same thing as the large cities across the country. I hope that we can come up with a proposal to make sure that we are heard. It’s vitally important that the federal or provincial government understands that rural municipalities like ours really need due consideration.”

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 11 edition of The Picton Gazette
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