Mayor’s housing task force begins its work

THUNDER BAY – All of the handpicked experts for the mayor’s task force are now laser focused on bringing more homes to Thunder Bay.

The task force was developed as part of the pledge the city made to the province to achieve 2,200 units by 2031.

Along with city staff, the committee is made up of Mayor Ken Boshcoff and:

“We really have a comprehensive perspective of the community coming together with one goal in mind - how are we going to accomplish this goal of more housing for more people across all the housing needs?” Boshcoff said following Wednesday’s meeting.

“I’m coming out of this meeting very optimistic about how well organized we are and the different perspectives we have at the table.”

The force has a goal to meet on a monthly basis, and elected Boshcoff as the chair and Ken Ranta from the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board as the vice-chair.

Ranta, director of integrated social services, said there is a critical need for affordable housing.

“If you look at some of the statistics, we have a little over 1,300 individuals on our housing wait list for both affordable and rent supported housing,” Ranta noted.

“We also know that there's a huge number of individuals who are paying rent prices that are greater than 30 per cent of their income.”

Ranta went onto explain the 30 per cent rule.

“If you are paying 30 per cent or less, that is deemed as affordable housing. That doesn’t mean it costs less but individuals, families and households that can afford 30 per cent or less in terms of a home payment and then balance all the rest of their expenses - that's the target area.”

City staff also addressed upcoming deadlines with the working group, which did create questions around timing.

“The session really highlighted the need to think about the tradespeople, and the capacity to build these homes in Thunder Bay,” added Summer Stevenson, project manager for the city's housing accelerator.

“We need to make sure that there's affordable places for people to live. We want people to stay and go to school, learn a trade, and perhaps raise a family.”

One of those upcoming deadlines is May 6 when city council will have some decisions to make.

“We will be providing council with an overview of the funding allocation plan for the Housing Accelerator Fund,” noted Stevenson.

“They approved the action plan in August that originally had a budget of $35 million so now we have to implement the new action plan with $15 million.”

Stevenson also said there will be a recommendation to adopt a program to financially assist not-for-profit corporations to develop affordable housing units.

There will also be an ask to increase the funding amount for the improvement plan for existing core areas to encourage development in the downtown areas.

No date has been agreed upon yet for the task force to meet again in May.

Kevin Jeffrey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,