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Supportive housing projects could be helped by $3M loan from the city

Deputy Mayor Barry Ward says interest-free loan would spark projects while Redwood Park Communities waits on federal funding

The city could provide a $3-million, two-year, interest-free loan for interim financing to Redwood Park Communities for supportive housing projects in Barrie.

Councillors will consider initial approval of the loan Monday night, subject to funding approval for the projects from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Deputy Mayor Barry Ward said Redwood Park has a few supportive housing projects underway or planned in Barrie, and is awaiting word on funding applications for at least two of them.

“Barrie is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis,” Ward said. “An interest-free loan would be a small measure to ensure there would be some relief to the most vulnerable a little sooner than we would have if Redwood Park Communities had to wait for the funding to flow from the federal government.”

Supportive housing is a combination of housing assistance and supports that enable people to live as independently as possible in their community.

Of Redwood Park’s projects, one is 12 units of transitional housing for families behind the Salvation Army Citadel Corps on Lillian Crescent, and much of the cost has already been fund-raised, Ward said.

The deputy-mayor said the other project can’t be identified because it involves the purchase of private property, but it would be under the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative. It’s a billion-dollar program to help address urgent housing needs for vulnerable Canadians  especially during the pandemic  through rapid construction of affordable housing.

“Redwood Park Communities expects to hear if their funding applications have been approved in the next few weeks,” Ward said. “Based on previous experience with the CMHC, the money itself might not flow for many months. This loan would allow Redwood Park Communities to begin work on the projects right away – in the case of the transitional housing on Lillian, the pipes are already in the ground and construction could begin almost immediately.

“With the other project, the building is already there, but funding would be used to prepare for its conversion to supportive housing," he added. 

Ward noted the County of Simcoe is the lead agency for social housing and support for both of these projects. Operating funds will flow through the county and be paid for by all county residents.

His motion would simply forward a loan for capital works that would be contingent upon Redwood Park Communities being guaranteed that CHMC funding was on the way. The motion directs staff to work out terms of the loan to ensure there would be no risk to taxpayers. Staff would also determine the source of the funding.

It reads, ‘that the City of Barrie provide an interest-free loan of up to $3 million in interim construction financing to Redwood Park Communities for a period of two years, on terms to the satisfaction of Barrie’s chief administrative officer and director of finance and treasury, for supportive housing projects in the City of Barrie and that the loan be subject to funding approval for the projects from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.’ 

Ward’s motion is an item for discussion on Monday night’s general committee agenda. If approved it would be considered for final approval at the June 28 city council meeting.

Late last year, council approved a refundable $50,000 loan to support the County of Simcoe and Redwood Park Communities’ efforts to buy property for supportive and transitional housing in Barrie.

Redwood Park Communities provides safe, affordable and supportive housing. Its United House, for example, provides transitional housing and support to women leaving the Barrie Women and Children’s Shelter in five renovated, fully furnished apartments.

Since opening United House, this partnership has been expanded to offer additional housing options through the second suites program. It provides tenants with affordable rental options in neighbourhood settings, while also generating rental income for homeowners. The space is rented out to Redwood Park Communities, which pays rent directly to the homeowner.