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How would mayoral candidates fix homelessness if elected?

Affordable housing can include ownership, rental or subsidized housing, but the city’s lack of affordable housing contributes to high rents

What do Barrie’s seven candidates for mayor think about the city’s most important issues as election day approaches on Oct. 24?

Andrew Gordon, Weldon Hachey, Alex Nuttall, Gerry Marshall, Mike McCann, and Barry Ward were asked six questions asked by BarrieToday. Rob Haverson did not respond.

One of those questions was: How can the next council address Barrie’s shortage of affordable housing and the homelessness situation? What are your solutions and why?

Affordable housing is a range of housing types allowing families and individuals, of all income levels, to find suitable places to live without spending a disproportionate percentage of their income on housing. Affordable housing can include ownership, rental or subsidized housing. This city’s lack of affordable housing contributes to high rents, homelessness.

Andrew Gordon

Everyone in Barrie needs a home. I want to build municipal housing for the homeless. Think traditional student residence. Two people per room with shared washrooms and common rooms. One large dining hall with meals costing no more than $3. The housing will cost them 50 per cent of their government assistance cheques or 30 per cent of their net pay, if employed. I have a business plan for this, where the homeless will change from a community liability to a community asset

Weldon Hachey

In our current state, I would say it’s a crisis or near-crisis. We can invest in training and give incentives to smaller contractors to look into mini micro homes for the homeless to shelter them from extreme weather. We can build tiny homes with modular capabilities as small starter homes with the simplicity of expanding as families grow. Working with bylaws and zoning to make sure everyone has suitable housing. Looking into possible schools, churches and public buildings to help the homeless during the evenings while they are empty. Especially in extreme cold temperatures. 

Alex Nuttall

We need to create a mix of unit types to meet everyone’s needs, including the needs of our most vulnerable residents and our seniors. This can be solved by building more housing in designated high-density areas, with lower project approval times. More supply will equal less demand, and more stabilized housing prices overall. I am committed to working with local experts to address issues of homelessness in our community, by increasing resources for these individuals and by ending the prisoner drop-off in downtown Barrie. The 2022 homelessness enumeration report conducted by the County of Simcoe states that 35 per cent of people in Barrie experiencing homelessness were released from health or correctional facilities.

Gerry Marshall

Barrie city council, not county council, needs to plan, manage and implement the homelessness portfolio. The province needs to authorize us to do so. With autonomy we can work far more strategically with our charities, volunteers and support service providers. Provincially built and managed social housing units of the '70s and '80s worked. They made a difference, the province needs to re-engage. We need to leverage existing facilities; most city, county and provincial facilities are only one or two storeys. We need to explore how these facilities can be expanded to having residential third, fourth or fifth floors. We need to complete a land inventory with an eye to where, and what could be built on vacant, city-owned pieces of property. We need to do more than talk about tiny homes and different housing models. We need to pass bylaws that create the on-ramp for these to occur. 

Mike McCann

Housing affordability can be a goal we can achieve by ensuring all stakeholders are aligned to finding solutions. This means sitting down with developers and incentivizing the need for robust housing policies that help low-income families achieve their goal of purchasing their first home. We need all levels of government working together to lower the cost per square foot of residential development. Affordability can help the homeless as well, opening the door for the development of more transitional housing to help get people back on their feet.

Barry Ward

We have already started implementing the recommendations of the affordable housing task force and we must continue to do so: appointing a staff person to shepherd affordable housing applications through the process while also looking for funding from the federal and provincial governments; reducing parking standards or introducing shared parking with commercial uses for affordable housing projects; boosting our affordable and supportive housing reserve with a community benefits fund. We need to keep working with Simcoe County, our service manager, and various local organizations on programs to help the homeless with food, shelter and outreach counselling. We need to keep pressuring the federal and provincial government for money toward supportive housing. As mayor, my first response to any organization proposing affordable or supportive housing would be: “How can the city help you?”