This article from Karena Walters at the Standard is exactly correct; Council has pushed off the decision on the 4 million dollar hydro dividend until the new year. While I would have liked that it be dealt with last night, I also appreciate Councillors desire for more information on all the ideas put forward.
My contention has been from the beginning that a million dollars should be put towards a new program under our CIP (Community Improvement Program) that creates an incentive to build Affordable Housing units in St. Catharines. Currently in Niagara, more than 10,000 people are waiting for affordable housing units; with the recent boom in housing prices coupled with the low rental vacancy rates, that number is only going up.
While some would argue that because this falls under the Regional realm of responsibility we shouldn’t spend a dime on it, I disagree. The need in St. Catharines for Affordable Housing units is urgent, bordering on dire. The reality is, a very large percentage of those seeking shelter live in our city. Anyone who has spent any time in shelters in St. Catharines has seen the need a) increase dramatically over the last few years, and b) move into demographics where it was not previously a concern. This is not a problem we can ignore any more; this is an all-hands-on-deck situation and needs our attention.
Those same Councillors who argue against it because it’s part of the Region’s responsibility also encourage money to be spent on Economic Development in attracting new business – an item that also falls under the Regional realm of responsibility. A number of Councillors also look forward to adding their two cents to debates that fall outside of St. Catharines local jurisdiction on a regular basis; three years ago, Council passed a motion condemning the Russian incursion into Ukraine! To argue that Council should ‘stick to its knitting’ would be a fair argument if that were ever the case in the past. It hasn’t been, however, so in this case we should at least try to help our residents.
The bottom line is that our City has a much stronger case to make when we look to attract Federal and Provincial dollars to this problem if we show we are taking responsibility for it as well. By putting money towards new builds of Affordable Housing units, we show we are committed to helping raise our residents out of poverty with tangible action.
I look forward to the debate in January. If you believe strongly that Affordable Housing should be a priority for Council in the new year, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let your Councillors know.