Waiting game on housing funds

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London’s slice of a big provincial pie to fix up social housing remains a mystery, days after the province announced there’s $657 million up for grabs, half of it going to Toronto.

The public housing agency that provides homes for more than 5,000 low-income Londoners, the London and Middlesex Housing Corp. (LMHC), is facing a projected $223-million bill for needed fixes to its housing during the next five years.

But so far, city hall has heard nothing about provincial money.

“We have heard nothing with regards to London or other Southwestern Ontario communities,” David Purdy, the city’s manager of housing services, said Tuesday.

“We are in a waiting game, just like everyone else.” he said.

The need is definitely there.

Josh Browne, the chief executive of the LMHC, has warned some of the agency’s rental units may have to be shut down if they can’t be maintained.

There’s also no guarantee the provincial funding can be funnelled into all the needed repairs.

The money is coming from the province’s cap and trade program to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and is targeted at energy-efficient heating, lighting retrofits, window replacements, high efficiency appliances and improved insulation.

That criteria may cover some of the upgrades in LMHC units, but not others such as repairs to elevators or plumbing.

The city, which funds the LMHC, would get the provincial money but it would flow though to the LMHC and other groups which manage and maintain social housing in the city. Purdy said he’s waiting for details on which agencies can get the money and what repairs are covered.

“We don’t know the guidelines or rules, so we don’t know the opportunities,” said Purdy.

Myriam Denis, a spokesperson for Housing Minister Peter Milczyn, said the ministry plans to release more details.

“We’ll be sharing more information about what this funding means for communities across the province in the weeks ahead,” she wrote in an emailed statement to The Free Press.

The province’s decision to dole out half of the money to Toronto was seen as an olive branch to Mayor John Tory after Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government blocked his proposal to charge tolls on the Gardiner Expressway.

New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler of London said voters should expect more “Toronto-centric” announcements in the run-up to the next provincial election, due by June 2018, as the Liberals try to bolster their fortunes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“We will see more announcements focused on shoring up GTA seats. I don’t think they see much opportunity to pick up seats in the rest of the province,” said the London West MPP.

Sattler said the delay in announcing funding for London is frustrating because of the urgent need.

“Every meeting I have with the city officials, they identify the quality of our social housing stock as a top priority.”



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