Midland plans to sets aside $100,000 homelessness, affordable housing committees

·4 min read

Midland council unanimously approved $100,000 for committees on homelessness and affordable housing.

The notice of motion to include the amount in the upcoming budget discussions was brought forward by Mayor Stewart Strathearn at this week's council meeting.

"It's likely that the committees will also be submitting an operating budget," said Strathearn, who noted the money is a placeholder in the budget process.

"This funding is really in anticipation (of an) announcement that we hope will be happening shortly and I think we will all be pleasantly surprised by. I would encourage us to ensure this funding goes into budget because there's an opportunity coming that I believe will be significant."

Council Bill Gordon was happy to support the motion.

"This is what it looks like when the community pitches in for something that matters to the community, ultimately for the best for all of the members of our community," he said. "This placeholder is not a licence to go and blow it. Same thing with the discussion about a small budget around the Homelessness Action Committee, it's just for the incidentals and costs, not to pay ourselves or the people on the committee."

Gordon encouraged residents to follow the proceedings of Council's Task Force on Affordable Housing on the town's YouTube channel.

Coun. Jon Main, who is a member of the task force, concurred.

"The last meeting we had our consultant on board and one of the topics we talked about was constantly investing in communicating what we're talking about," he said. "By allocating a budget towards affordable housing, a lot of the sites we're going to talk about, municipally owned sites are going to need a little bit of fixing up, investment, zoning and review. All of that is going to pay dividends as we invest in these properties.

"As everything has a dollar sign attached to it, this is an important investment into affordable housing, to be able to allocate some budgetry amounts to that."

Gord McKay, who chairs the task force, shared some updates with MidlandToday in a conversation Friday.

"The first one is that we're continuing to look for an architect who will assist with exploring what can be built on properties in the town providing affordable housing," he said.

Right now, said the former mayor, the names of the actual properties being considered are being held in confidence.

"You will appreciate as soon as you start to put particular names out there, the level of interest of the market changes," said McKay. "It should be out shortly."

He said the committee is also preparing its business case to take back to council, detailing what it is the group is trying to achieve and the mechanisms through which it is doing so, as well as the financing required.

"They haven't been allocated to anything specifically yet," said McKay, referring to the $100,000 discussed at council.

Committee members also discussed various funding opportunities.

"There are a number of different programs, but the challenge of going forward to any of these agencies is that you have to have a project in mind," said McKay. "So we're sort of at a Catch-22, because we have to take that step forward before we can pursue any form of serious funding."

With council's agreement, he said, a project should hopefully begin early in the new year.

But before that, McKay said, the committee will engage populations affected by lack of affordable housing and residents, in general.

"People and residents of Midland have quite an interest in housing and what's happening in their neighbourhoods," he said. "I don't want to say that the voices of those who live in such housing is unimportant --- they're not --- but the immediate challenge is to work to develop the properties. With that, we will have to reach out to folks who live in this particular style of housing."

In that vein, McKay said he welcomes resident participation at the virtual meetings being held every two weeks. The next one is planned for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The agenda is available online. Residents interested in participating can reach out to the town clerk, Karen Desroches, at kdesroches@midland.ca.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com