|Rev. Dr. Susan Eagle|
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!