DSB reps lobby ministry for increased capital funds

ESPANOLA—The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (MSDSB) is among similar service delivery agencies in Northern Ontario who have lobbied the Minister of Housing for enough capital housing funding to actual build something, instead of having to use funds provided by the province (which are not enough to allow for construction of new housing units), for renovations and upgrades on current structures.

“We asked the minister if there is any way the ministry can ensure enough capital funding is provided to ensure everyone has a chance to build every year,” stated Fern Dominelli, chief administrative officer of the MSDSB after a board meeting last week.

Mr. Dominelli explained that the MSDSB had a delegation meeting with the Ontario Minister of Housing Peter Milczyn at the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) annual conference. “Our message to the minister is that we are looking for the minister to ensure capital funding will be available for small, Northern, rural, remote municipalities and that enough will be provided that we can use these funds to build. We, the MSDSB, received $325,000 in funding this year through the Investment in Affordable Housing Program. However, we would have to save these accumulated funds (provided yearly) for about 9-12 years to allow us to actually undertake a new housing project.”

“What happens is that in areas like Sudbury (where there is a Consolidated Municipal Service Manager) they use funding provided by the province-along with borrowing funds, when they want to build housing in the community. We (MSDSB) aren’t big enough (in population) to borrow the funds required to build something with the funding that is provided.”

Mr. Dominelli said of the funding that is provided by the province, “we cannot use these funds to renovate existing social housing units; we use them through Ontario Renovates to keep people in their homes. We are making the best use of the funding that we can. But we haven’t been able to build new over the past 18 years. The question we posed to the minister was, ‘is there a way the ministry can ensure everyone will be able to build every year’.”

To build a 20 unit two storey housing unit would cost roughly between $3 to $4 million, said Mr. Dominelli. “It costs roughly $150,000-200,000 to build one housing unit. We receive $320,000 yearly through the provincial funding program.”

“There is no doubt the bigger cities and communities need money as well to build, but under the current formula (using Stats Canada data) areas with a population under 5,000 are being suppressed in being able to undertake new capital projects. That’s our reality, we can’t afford to build new housing.”