150 affordable housing units coming to Windsor's east end

Windsor city council has endorsed a project which would bring 150 affordable homes to the city's east end.

City council approved the project with construction on 8-storey building beginning next year

An eight-storey, 150 unit affordable housing development is planned for Windsor's east end. (David Horemans/CBC)

Windsor city council has endorsed a project which would bring 150 affordable homes to the city's east end.

"Almost every house that goes up [for sale] has a bidding war — there are folks who can't afford to be part of that market and folks impacted by that," said Mayor Drew Dilkens, who brought the issue in-camera Monday night so that it could go before council to be approved before they meet again in August. 

The $39 million project is spearheaded by the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation (CHC) and partners will offer housing that is meant to cost less than 30 per cent of a household's total income. 

About 4,700 people in our area are waiting for social or affordable housing, according to the CHC. 

Dilkens said it's a win-win for taxpayers. 

"The beautiful part about this is because it's affordable housing there is revenue received each and every month from the tenants and over time, all of the fees that are paid ... can actually be returned to the taxpayer by revenue received from rent," he said. 

Windsor city councillors unanimously voted in favour of investing in affordable housing on the city's east end. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The city will kick in about $12 million for the project, with $10.8 coming from a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) grant, another $12.3 million from a CMHC mortgage and another $4 million for a provincial grant the city is applying for. 

"The goal is to have a net zero cost to taxpayers but also provide that amenity to residents," said Dilkens.

All councillors — with the exception of Bill Marra who was absent Monday night — voted in support of the project. 

One and two bedroom apartments

The eight-storey building would contain 150 units. Of those apartments, 70 per cent would be one-bedroom and 30 per cent would be two-bedroom units. CHC is also making sure at least 30 per cent of the homes will be accessible. 

"We're very excited," said Jim Steele, CEO of the housing corporation.

"We needed partners and the city gave us some land on the east end and they're also supporting us with some financial backing."

Construction for the project would begin in February 2019 and end in December 2020. 

Jim Steele, CEO of the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation, is excited about the new 150 units being developed in the city. But he's also worried about funding for the corporation after cap and trade incentives dry up. (CBC)

Need for cheaper homes

In 2017, the federal government released details of a ten-year housing strategy with the key message being "housing rights are human rights."

Around that same time, city council allocated a 1.7 acre spot of land on Meadowbrook Lane for the the CHC to develop the homes. 

"You can imagine there are folks who are working two or three jobs, trying to make ends meet, there are seniors who are on fixed income who can't afford the cost of accommodations today," said the mayor. "As much as the economy's great in the city of Windsor and we see housing prices rising, that actually impacts some people in a negative way, and this allows us to address some of those challenges that we see in the city of Windsor."

Cap and trade cut-backs

While Steele is excited for this newest project, he's in the middle of dealing with a financial set-back with the CHC.

Premier Doug Ford has scrapped the province's cap and trade program, which has put the brakes on incentive programs that helped Ontarians retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient. It's also having an affect on the CHC, which owns about 5,000 units, as well as the city. 

"It's a loss of a few million dollars," said Steele. "We're about half way through the program and we've received $7 million but we'll likely miss out on that."

Of an annual budget of about $40 million, Steele said cap and trade incentive programs made up about 10 per cent of that budget. 

"It's not the first time we've been told to do more than less and we're working on those plans right now," he said. 

The homes owned and managed by the CHC have an average age of 50-years, meaning the are in need of retrofitting. Most of the work which is underway will go underfunded, and Steele has to figure out how to cover those costs. 

"What will likely happen is we'll divert some funds to finish the existing work," he said. 

The lost incentives are a problem for the City of Windsor as well. 

Windsor's city treasurer Joe Mancina said council may have to allocate funding toward retrofitting affordable housing in the city's capital budgets moving forward. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"Under the social housing apartment investment program we've seen a reduction there — about $4.7 million in funds that are being committed are proceeding but about $6.7 million in funding we were looking at are now cancelled and won't be going forward," said Joe Mancina, the city's treasurer. 

Mancina said the city is "always looking" for grant opportunities that can help when it comes to affordable or social housing. He said council may consider to do what it has done in capital budgets before and put money forward for retrofitting buildings. But as Mancina said, it's a big portfolio that costs a lot of money.