Mayor, eight councillors lobby for affordable housing, transit funding

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London politicians are meeting with provincial leaders this week to push for funds to support the city’s bus rapid transit plan and affordable housing needs.

London Mayor Matt Brown said talks at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference — an annual stomping ground for mayors and councillors from across the province — have so far been positive.

Eight councillors joined him at the conference.

“It really is a full-court press as we express, very clearly, the need that London has to move forward,” Brown said Monday afternoon from Ottawa, where he met with the provincial transportation and housing ministers, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP boss Andrea Horwath.

There were three main areas of focus for the London delegation: provincial cash for bus rapid transit; funding to maintain affordable housing units; and the need to develop a high-speed rail system that cuts through London.

“The provincial government (has) made significant commitments to communities right across the province. It’s now about articulating that it’s important for London to get its fair share,” Brown said of the millions London needs for BRT.

London is asking Ontario and Ottawas for a combined $370 million for that project.

For all the talk of productivity, Londoners shouldn’t expect their politicians to arrive home with the cold, hard cash.

But the dollars are there, Brown said, and he feels positive London will get a piece of the pie when it comes to BRT and housing funds.

“I’m feeling more confident than ever,” he said.

Affordable housing is a crucial priority for London, where 2,900 families are on the waiting list.

Any one of them could be living in unsafe situations in the meantime, said Abe Oudshoorn, a member of the London Homeless Coalition steering committee.

“It might mean they’re stuck in emergency shelters, it might mean they’re staying in a current residence they can’t afford,” he said.

Oudshoorn wants to see politicians push for dollars to fund supportive living programs — like those that combine shelter with mental health resources — not just capital to build new units.

“A lot of the folks we work with need more than just the housing. They need supports . . . to make that housing work,” he said.

But London also needs cash to repair current units, Brown said, pointing to a forecast $225-million deficit for maintenance of London Middlesex Housing Corp. stock in the next five years.

“When I say there’s a crisis in our affordable housing file, I mean it.”

The AMO conference continues Tuesday. 

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