A 40-unit transitional housing complex is now a step closer to reality in Greater Sudbury following a $7.4-million announcement from the federal government on July 20.
In 2021, city council passed a business case dedicated to transitional housing, with a goal of building a 40-unit apartment building with intensive care services to help chronically homeless people in Greater Sudbury, said Tyler Campbell, director of children and social services with the City of Greater Sudbury.
The vision of council, Campbell said, is to create an apartment complex with 40 self-contained one-bedroom units. People taking up residence within the complex would receive intensive services, provided by Health Sciences North, with the ultimate goal of transitioning into permanent community housing.
“These units would be a starting point, and would be transitional in nature, as the individuals will progress down the housing continuum to permanent community housing,” said Campbell.
The $7.4 million from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) will cover a large portion of the capital component for that apartment building, as well as operations services within the building.
“We are developing a list of chronically homeless individuals in our community, and we know from our partners the need is there for the 40-unit intensive services building,” Campbell said.
A location has yet to be determined, Campbell said.
“We have not brought forward any location options yet for council to consider, but we will be bringing that forward in August.”
Greater Sudbury is one of only 30 municipalities across the country to be able to tap into $500 million in funding through the RHI’s cities stream.
“I am sincerely grateful for this investment from the federal government,” said Mayor Brian Bigger. The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide sweeping impacts on the quality of life for individuals and families throughout Canada, including here in Greater Sudbury. Strong communities require a foundation of security and comfort, and today’s funding announcement is a collective step in the right direction to provide transitional housing options for our most vulnerable residents.”
The funding announcement on Tuesday said the $7.4 million would be used to build 28 new affordable homes. Campbell said that is the minimum number needed to apply for the funding.
“City council will have to determine if they want to scale that up to the envisioned 40-unit building, and we’ll have to see what we can get out of that $7.5 million,” he said.
Spadina-Fort York MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to Ahmen Hussen, minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, announced the funding alongside Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré and Mayor Brian Bigger.
Vaughan said the pandemic has shown that housing is as fundamental to people’s health as any medicine that can be prescribed.
“If you don’t house people safely, you don’t house people well,” Vaughan said. “At this time last year, we came to the conclusion that we could invest heavily into the municipal sector to deliver a lot of housing fast, and change the game on chronic homelessness.”
In its initial round, with funding of $1 billion announced in October 2020, the RHI exceeded its original targets of 3,000 permanent affordable housing units with 4,700 units built nationally. It was such a success, the federal government committed an additional $1.5 billion for RHI “2.0,” with the goal to build more than 9,200 affordable homes across the country, said Vaughan.
Strong municipal partnerships are key to the success of the RHI, Vaughan said.
“While provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments are also part of the equation, if you don’t work with municipal governments, you just don’t get the work done,” Vaughan said. “We need strong city partners stepping up to take the leadership on these files, because they know their communities. The city councillors, the mayors, they know who is homeless, where the homeless live, and they know the right place to put the housing for it to succeed, not just for the city, but for the individuals for whom they are trying to provide shelter.”
Lefebvre, the MP for Sudbury, said creating housing rapidly to address the crisis is a priority for the federal government.
“This new funding is part of our commitment to addressing severe housing needs across the country, including here in Sudbury,” Lefebvre said. “It will provide immediate support to create safe and stable housing to thousands of vulnerable individuals and families.”
Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré said every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for affordable housing and led to rising levels of homelessness.
“The ongoing pandemic reminds us that nothing is more important than a home,” said Serré. “Hardworking middle-class families in Nickel Belt -Greater Sudbury deserve a safe and affordable place to call their own, where they can thrive and spend more time with their loved ones. This investment will quickly add new affordable homes to Sudbury’s housing stock, that is not just affordable, but also accessible, energy efficient and of good quality.”
Vaughan said the cities involved in the RHI to date have been getting the money out the door so fast, it has been a challenge keeping up with spending, which is part of the reason for the expansion of the program and the doubling of the number of cities involved.
“We know if we can get direct dollars to cities to help them build housing fast, the solutions will be that quicker,” Vaughan said. “Housing is not the problem we are trying to solve here, it’s just the best tool we have to solve some of the problems enunciated by challenges we face.”
The RHI is delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, under the National Housing Strategy, a 10-year plan to provide more than $72 billion to give more Canadians a place to call home.