I had promised City Councilor Sandy White that I would post here on my private blog, her response to the budget cuts unedited and unaltered in any way and do so now here as well as on my private Facebook Page.
“Thank you for the opportunity to offer a comment, Sean! Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED? First, getting to zero for the sake of getting to zero is not my goal. Clearly, we are in a deep financial recession and council needs to find practical ways to help Londoners, through this recession. We have lost hund…reds of jobs in the London area, i.e. Ford and EMD. Sadly, there are more to come. We as a council need to look at what is best for ALL Londoners.
Many Londoners indicate that they want tax relief. They cannot afford their bills for a number of reasons that can include, out of work, fixed income or working poor. People need help now! It does not make sense to take money from the taxpayer for a reserve when they do not have money to put into their own savings account or to feed their family. There are much better ways to help that are immediate, practical and less costly. While we may not be building as many new units under this new housing strategy, we are still getting positive outcomes. We will be helping more people and faster.
That being said, the affordable home ownership program was a great success—and Council may direct more funds toward it—as funds are now exhausted. Families can access a fully forgivable loan up to 8% of a home worth up to $148,000. They build equity and achieve home ownership—and they pay property taxes, so it is a win all around. Even with reducing the contribution into the affordable housing program, we are achieving good outcomes. The numbers are forth coming from Community Services, but here are some of the housing programs we offer.
The reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.
On January 1, 2012, there were changes to housing legislation. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.
This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.
This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds:
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number
of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled.
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding.
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects.
Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of,
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short-term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)
Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes. We have 4% vacancy rate in London that we can potentially access quickly. Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes. In addition, London has a 4% vacancy rate and we have many people who need assistance with affordable housing as quickly as possible. Integrated housing is much more humane and preferable to many.
For example, I have a friend who is in receipt of ODSP and they want to stay in their current apartment. However, the rent is not affordable and in order to manage the cost of rent, they forfeit having food sometimes. Living in London housing is not an option for them. They could not handle the environment and would much rather pay the higher rent for the peace of mind. This individual would welcome a rental supplement. I suspect there are many Londoners in this situation. I believe that integrated housing can be much healthier and I totally support anything we can do to promote this type of housing program.
As for the wading pools, we are moving to splash pads. In fact, Westminster is getting a new pool and splash pad this summer.
Also in an effort to offer some relief to taxpayers, council needs to strike a balance. These decisions are never easy; investing money to help pull us through these difficult financial times for the purpose of creating employment will be beneficial to our recovery.
I hope this helps!