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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Susan Eagle on Affordable Housing

The following appeared in the London Free Press on Saturday, February 18, 2012. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author, former Ward 9 councillor Susan Eagle, a tireless advocate for affordable housing.

Rev. Dr. Susan Eagle
It was with disappointment that I read of the decision of city council last week to cut the housing reserve fund by $1 million in the 2012 budget.

At best it is a short-sighted decision. At worst it is a heartless assault on the most vulnerable of London's citizens, especially in an uncertain economy.

The affordable housing strategy grew out of extensive consultation with Londoners, assessment of future need, demographic and economic projections for the city as well as consideration of what partnerships might be developed with other levels of government. It was a long-term strategy strongly supported by councillors of many different political viewpoints.

I am not surprised that some current council members do not support the strategy as perhaps they were not part of the original consultation. However, I did expect that a former federal housing minister, who, while in federal office, touted London's foresight and planning on the housing front as an example of the kind of municipal investment that should be commended, would be on side to continue the program.

A few years ago, London committed to support investments in both the hospital and the university. They were multi-year strategies and, tough as it was at times, we stayed with those commitments and honoured the partnerships.

Affordable housing is also a partnership. It is a partnership with Londoners in need, Londoners who care about the quality of life we have, and Londoners who know the truth of the statement that our progress is measured not by how far the front of the parade has travelled, but by how far behind the end of the parade has fallen.

It is also an investment - an investment in our future. When we invest in affordable housing we support families, seniors and young people starting out in the job market and needing the extra help that pays rich dividends in those communities that offer that hand up.

While it is true that $1million is helpful, the target of $2 million per year was set as the minimum that should be invested because of the high core need and the amount of catchup that is necessary.

I hope that Councillor Joe Swan, as chair of the council housing committee tasked with shepherding this strategy, will reconsider his negative vote. I hope that Mayor Joe Fontana will look again at the well-documented economic and community benefits of maintaining the affordable housing strategy.

I also hope that on budget night next Tuesday Londoners will, once again, let council know that they really do support the well considered and balanced approach that is reflected in the affordable housing strategy.

The city budget is more than three-quarters of a billion dollars. I know the $2 million can be found. We found it every year for many years - and it leveraged millions more for the London economy and the benefit of many vulnerable people.

Susan Eagle is a United Church minister living in Barrie who is a former London city councillor and chairperson of the Council Housing Leadership Committee.

The final debate on the budget, including the affordable housing contribution, will take place sometime after 6:00 p.m. in council chambers. Members of the public are welcome to attend in the public gallery which can be accessed from the third floor. Your presence matters!


Change not always for the better said...

How refreshing to hear some sensible comments from a Ward Nine Councillor.

Anonymous said...

Happy Family Day.
I'm just wondering, does anyone know if the smart meters are set to holiday pay today, so I don't have to do my landry in the dark and make my brood choose between lights, camera's or action when never the twain shall meet?

Interested Party said...

Susan Eagle is a very wise person.

Some people who oppose the support of social housing talk as if they are members of an elite aristocracy, and show contempt for people who have also worked very hard, but not achieved as much financial comfort.

What about people who have struggled with life-long disabilities, or spouses left to raise their children alone, or those who spent years caring for other family members instead of building their own wealth? I know mothers who have been left to raise their kids alone, working two jobs, and they don't have pension plans or savings, and not because they did not try hard.

The 'aristocrats' talk as if everyone who is less well-off spends their days partying in bars.

Maybe they would like to bring back the Workhouses and Debtors prisons that Dickens wrote about.

The modern day,'Let then eat cake' crowd, also seem eager to have wages constantly lowered for everyone but themselves. Where will this new class of low-paid workers live? Will they be living in the luxury apartments and urban sprawl houses that are so popular with private developers?

Young families and singles are starting their lives with big student loans, yet working low-paying, part-time jobs for years with little hope of relief.

We need affordable housing units if we expect to maintain a healthy community.

Gina Barber said...

Dear anonymous,
I apologize for missing your comment initially. I thought I had published it, but I just came across it in the pending file. I believe that holidays are treated like weekends for smartmeter purposes.