Cornwall back-burners social housing to keep the poor in their homes

Cornwall-SD&G Social Services Manager Debora Daigle, left, answers a question from Coun. Bernadette Clement about funding for social housing. City council decided Monday Feb. 23, 2015 to dump money to build social housing into a program to help low-income earners stay in their homes. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Cornwall councillors have decided to put more money behind a program to help low-income homeowners instead of building a small amount of social housing.

The city is given $5.8 million dollars by the province to spend through 2020 on a number of social housing programs.

Based on provincial calculations, the amount of money for rental housing through 2017 ($1.5 million) would have only allowed Cornwall-SD&G Social Services to construct 10 social housing units.

The Ontario Renovates (OR) program had a $366,345 allotment this year.

“It’s a choice we need to weigh,” Social Services Manager Debora Daigle told council. “I’m responding to a number of councillors about getting some more units,” she said.

In the end, councillors agreed to dump this year’s $750,000 social housing envelope into the OR program, bringing it up to $1,116,345.

Daigle says many of the Ontario Renovates recipients are seniors in rural areas struggling to stay in their homes. Ontario Renovates gives them up to $16,000 for essential and emergency upgrades, such as furnaces and electrical wiring.

They have to qualify and have a gross household income less than $40,000.

Coun. Bernadette Clement says the OR program is “crucial” in this area. “We know there are tenants now that live in unsafe housing.” Clement is also a lawyer who represents tenants. It should be noted OR is only available for homeowners and not tenants.

“(The Ontario Renovates program)…this helps them along. Ten units? That won’t make much of a difference,” Coun. Andre Rivette said.

Acting CAO Stephen Alexander says they had been looking at locations and potential partners for a 10-unit social housing location but councillors were convinced the money would be better spent keeping low-income earners in their homes.

The last social housing built in Cornwall-SD&G was 2011 when dignitaries cut the ribbon on a 32-unit complex on Sixth Street in Cornwall and a 24-unit building in Ingleside.

There are roughly 600 to 700 individuals and families in SD&G on a waiting list for social housing.

The City of Cornwall is responsible for delivering social services to the city and the United Counties of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry.

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