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Lefebvre: Sudbury needs more affordable housing options

‘Greater Sudbury is the hub of Northern Ontario and has so many opportunities for growth. We want new business, professionals and families to come and call Sudbury home. To do this, we must be ready and have the housing available for them to move to’
Paul Lefebvre speaks at an Oct. 1 Greater Sudbury mayoral debate.

Having a safe place to call home is not just an essential need. It was recognized as a human right by the Canadian government in 2018. 

This means that all  levels of government have a responsibility to make sure that housing is available for all. Everyone deserves housing that is within their budget and meets their housing goals and needs. As a community looking to keep and attract residents, we need a variety of affordable housing options – especially as the cost of living keeps rising.  

Municipal governments must consider housing needs across a spectrum, from those experiencing homelessness, to our rental market, to homeownership. Neighbourhoods with a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and apartments create more options; a mix of homeownership and rental units makes neighbourhoods more accessible for more people. 

To build a healthy housing stock across the spectrum, we need private developers, non-profit housing and service providers and the municipality to work together.  

I know that many citizens have their own feelings and reactions when they hear the term  “affordable” housing. Homeowners report feeling concerned that the existing character of their  neighbourhood may be threatened by the introduction of multi-unit buildings or units developed  for those with lower incomes like mid-rise condos, townhouses and apartment buildings. 

Yet, examples from other cities show that communities with a mix of housing options provide  opportunities for renters and homeowners (and those aspiring to homeownership) to access  housing – and community services that support residents in their daily lives.  

Take the St. Lawrence neighbourhood in Toronto, for example. Commonly known for its historic  market, the neighbourhood was developed in the 1970s with the intention of providing a mix of  housing as well as businesses. Today, it’s a bustling place for residents and tourists alike, with  restaurants lining the Esplanade, a vibrant park and a community centre. Nestled among these  

businesses and amenities is a combination of non-profit, market rental and a range of private  housing options.  

Of course, Sudbury is not Toronto, and our culture and community is very different here. What is  appropriate in Toronto — or Ottawa or Elliot Lake or Thunder Bay — may not be best for Sudbury. 

There is no one-size-fits-all model for housing. And that’s the point.  

We have many local organizations and developers in our community who are in the business of  putting roofs over heads. The City of Greater Sudbury can create policies that make it easier for developers to build homes, while ensuring that neighbourhoods meet a variety of residents’  needs. 

This means ensuring the rules are clear and followed by all developers and landlords, and may require some streamlining or clarification at building services, while still following environmental and planning rules and best practices.

In rental housing, landlords and property managers need to be responsible for appropriate upkeep, while tenants need to have resources to ensure their rights. For individuals and families with low  incomes, we can continue to support co-ops and non-profit housing complexes. And in fact, we have an opportunity to lead in this aspect: as one of the city’s largest landlords, Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation must be resourced to deliver dignified housing. 

These complexes, and the community gathering spaces located within them, have immense potential for service delivery. While they already partner with nonprofits to deliver some programming in their community spaces, there are opportunities for the municipalities to use these spaces to deliver community services to all.

We have many organizations in our community that are experts on offering services to those  experiencing homelessness, and they have a better understanding of the innovative solutions  that work in other communities that could work here. As the municipal government, it is our role  to empower these groups and to help facilitate this important work. 

The only way we end the  homelessness crisis that we are in is to rely on proven solutions like housing first and co-ordinated service delivery led by those who are experts in our community. Finding ongoing, secure funding for the ACTT (Assertive Community Treatment Team) and completing the construction of the  transitional units that will support this program, is a top priority.  

Indeed, there is already funding available from other levels of government to address these  housing needs, so that the burden doesn’t fall solely on local taxpayers. 

The Federal Affordable  Housing Strategy and the Ontario Housing Supply Action plan gives communities a variety of funding opportunities to complete housing projects that meet their needs. 

But funding is often very competitive and we must be ready. This means convening a mayor’s advisory council to identify projects early, getting stakeholders on the same page, and ensuring community buy-in, so there are no roadblocks when it’s time to apply.  

Greater Sudbury is the hub of Northern Ontario and has so many opportunities for growth. We  want new business, professionals and families to come and call Sudbury home. 

To do this, we must be ready and have the housing available for them to move to. A community where everyone is housed and safe is a healthy community. Taking care of our most vulnerable means that housing and supports are available to residents of all socio-economic situations/brackets.

Together, we can make good things happen, but it means we must think outside the box.

Paul Lefebvre is a candidate for mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury in the Oct. 24 municipal election.


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