Catholic charity building 60-unit affordable housing project in northeast London

In a city with long waiting lists for affordable housing, a Roman Catholic charity has unveiled plans to build a 60-unit affordable housing development at a church in northeast London.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul said Friday it would convert nearly an acre of land bought from the Roman Catholic Diocese of London into a medium-rise affordable housing project for vulnerable Londoners.

“About three years ago, our national council decided that the most important thing that we could be doing would be to help with affordable housing and so that became our project nationwide,” said John Ketelaars, president of the society’s London council.

“Several other cities in Canada have decided to jump aboard, and we in London decided to do the same thing,” he said.

The site, about 0.83 acres of land, is located in a parking lot at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, where officials from the society, the Diocese of London and the city gathered Friday to announce the project.

“Affordable housing is a crucial issue of our time. The availability of these units is the right network to help get people off the streets and raise the quality of life for those in need of affordable, safe shelter,” Rev. Joseph Dabrowski, auxiliary bishop of London, told a small crowd inside the church lobby.

Dabrowski said the diocese was pleased to sell the land to the society, a charity with a “strong track record” and more than 12 housing projects nationwide. “We are very excited to see the project getting going, so fundraising can begin, and all the necessary approvals can be received,” he added.

The affordable housing project proposed for the vacant land at 1 Fallons Lane would see a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments for vulnerable Londoners. The city has a homeless population of more than 2,000, with around 6,000 households on the waiting list for housing, Ketelaars said.

The units will house “people in need,” he said. “They don't have to be Catholic. They don't have to be partisan. They don’t have to be anything. They have to be in need. That’s our one and only criteria so far.”

Members of the charity, which plans to raise money and take on a mortgage for the project, said they’re hopeful all levels of government will support the development.

London Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis and Ward 3 Coun. Peter Cuddy commended the Catholic church and society for stepping up to help tackle the housing crisis.

“For the first time, they’re stepping into this housing sphere in London to be a key partner, to help provide housing for those who truly need it,” Lewis said.

“And it’s only together, faith communities with non-for-profits, with the private sector, with all levels of government, that we are going to be successful in tackling this problem.”

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press