Bruce County staff update council on housing and homelessness plan

·3 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – Bruce County’s human services committee heard the annual progress report on the Housing and Homelessness Plan during the July 27 council meeting.

The plan highlighted major accomplishments in 2021, and outlined directions for 2022.

Among the highlights were the completion and occupancy of Penetangore Place in Kincardine, which now provides affordable rental units for 35 residents.

One key accomplishment was completion of the homelessness enumeration, which will allow a better understanding of the needs of homeless people in the county. This enumeration has driven a youth rapid rehousing initiative that’s currently in the planning stage.

A co-ordinator for the Grey-Bruce homelessness response steering committee has been hired to lead the committee and develop a list of all residents who are homeless.

M’Wikwedong’s Giiwe project, which explores Indigenous homelessness, was supported by Bruce County human services.

In 2022, phase one of the affordable housing development toolkit has been completed and shared with developers, to facilitate creation of affordable housing in the county. As stated in the report, staff “look forward to presenting the next phase in the upcoming months.”

Also in 2022, 42 applicants have been added to the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit program.

The county will be introducing a municipal housing allowance for Sept. 1. The purpose is to help residents bridge the gap between earnings and rental costs, due to the increase in rental costs.

The county is developing a housing demographic study for the end of 2022.

Staff continue to participate in the Grey Bruce Homelessness Response steering committee and Poverty Task Force. In partnership with Grey, staff were asked to present at the community of practice workshop for Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

County Coun. Chris Peabody, Brockton, asked about “renovictions” when new owners of an apartment building evict tenants on the grounds they need to do renovations, after which they raise the rents.

Christine MacDonald, director of human services, agreed that some rental companies are doing that. She said the county doesn’t track that, but staff have advised tenants of their rights in such situations.

There was a brief discussion on parameters set by the province.

“We are asking that the amounts be adjusted,” MacDonald said. “At present, they’re too low.”

Committee members noted during discussion that the housing crisis is in rental units; setting aside funds to assist people who are buying homes is not practical, when the need is to get people shelter.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, questioned the capacity of staff to administer all these programs and suggested they “focus on the most critical programs.”

Warden Janice Jackson, South Bruce Peninsula, commented, “Bruce County is committed to planning, delivering, and advocating for responsive services that help individuals and families enhance their level of participation and quality of life in our communities. Bruce County strives to provide accessible services that remove barriers and create opportunities.”

The July 7 meeting was held in the warden’s municipal council room, as is traditional for the first meeting in July.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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