The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is calling on the federal government to revisit an application it made for affordable housing and to make more money available for the program.
The town had applied for funding to build 25 one-bedroom units in the town through the Rapid Housing Initiative, a $1-billion federal program for the construction of affordable housing for vulnerable Canadians as part of the national housing strategy.
Brenna Jarrar, director of community development and research for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said the town applied for just over $7 million in funding for the units, competing with municipalities across the country.
They felt it was a realistic request, Jarrar said, and were disappointed the application was rejected. They were told the program received a large number of applications, she said, and about $4 billion was asked for by towns and cities across the country. This shows the national need for more affordable housing, she said, and the need for more funding.
“If anything, I think it’s incumbent on the federal government to increase the amount of money they made available,” Jarrar said. “In responding to this demand there’s an imperative to make more funding available.”
Jarrar said they specifically asked for one-bedroom apartments because right now there is no social housing available in the region for single people or couples without children, and there hasn’t been much built in the region in about 20 years.
“The number of new builds has been essentially zero,” she said. “There have been more subsidies of private rentals, but the actual availability of public housing has been more or less the exact same level since the early 2000s. While the market pressures in this area were especially heightened after the beginning of Muskrat Falls, and property values shot up and vacancy rates went to 0 per cent the actual availability of affordable housing, public housing in particular, is the same as it was in a different era.”
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Wally Andersen said in addition to the high costs in the market, more and more people moved to the town over the years, and the need for affordable housing has risen. The transient and homeless population in the town has been rising over the years and more affordable housing could help with that, Andersen said.
“We have a large number of people who come here trying to find affordable housing and at the end of the day that’s keeping them from a better quality of life they want for themselves,” he said.
“There are a lot of people out there struggling with problems they don’t want to talk about, and providing them with a place they could call their home could go a long way to help them get a firmer and better way of life for themselves.”
The town penned an open letter on the issue to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal government representatives, council is they’re hopeful they can get a meeting, Andersen said.
SaltWire Network contacted the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), which administers the program, regarding the town's application.
“Given the demand and quality of the applications submitted, we are currently seeking additional funding to support even more deserving projects under the (Rapid Housing Initiative),” read an emailed statement from the CMHC. “If we are able to secure additional funding, it will occur in late spring and require approval by Parliament prior to any funds being disbursed.”
The statement said until the CMHC knows more about the potential increased funding, it will continue to work with applicants to “discuss the potential fit with other initiatives currently accepting applications.”
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram