This space is usually reserved for my critique of what the city is doing, but when it comes to affordable housing, I find it hard to criticize our city government. Since 2007, when the city struck the Affordable Housing Action Committee (AHAC) and made a commitment to addressing the issue, they have been tackling it head on.
In December 2008, the AHAC hosted an Affordable Housing Public Forum where the main role of the city was identified as leadership—to help the people and organizations involved reach the solutions.
During the last election, in September 2009, the St. John’s Housing and Homelessness Network solicited candidates to sign and support four specific “housing actions”—which all present councillors have done.
The first action was to recognize that there’s a problem, and to work with community, government, and private partners to fix it.
The second action was to create a dedicated staff position to address affordable housing for the city. At the March 16th meeting of council, they approved this position, and hope to hire someone soon.
The third action is to commit to making a formal policy to help the city plan around the issue. There has been no formal commitment in council to do so, but we can hope that with the new staff member the AHAC will make this a priority.
The fourth action is a big one, but what I consider to be the most important: to implement a “one in ten” affordable housing plan. The idea is exactly how it sounds—one out of every ten units developed in the city would be affordable housing.
Another great initiative came from Danny Breen on March 16th when he moved to rename the Affordable Housing Action Committee to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing, which means the committee will now report directly to council. Before it was a sub-committee of the Planning and Housing committee.
They’ve done well, but I think the real test of St. John’s commitment to the issue will be whether or not they take the “one in ten” initiative seriously. A commitment to make one new house out of every ten affordable housing is a serious step, and will not happen without the firm backing of council, the public, developers, and all levels of government.
They have all the people sitting around the table, and have done everything right up until now. Let’s hope the first recommendation of the committee is to fulfill the commitment council made during the election.