As Beyond Housing prepares for its annual bike-a-thon fundraiser in Woolwich next month, its executive director says that the need for affordable housing in the region has become more urgent.
“The last numbers I heard were that there were over 7,500 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in Waterloo Region. By comparison, if we were to go back six years, it might have been around 3,000 or 3,500. So essentially, since 2017 as the real estate market has really taken off, and although it’s softened, it’s still much higher than it was and puts a lot of pressure on people looking for affordable housing,” said Dan Driedger.
Several factors have led to the increased need, he notes, including residents not being able to transition from renting to homeownership, people moving here from the GTA and investors buying older homes to replace them with condos.
“It’s displaced [some tenants] from some of the older apartment buildings that were out there. And renovictions continue to be a concern as well,” he said.
Beyond Housing is currently constructing a 28-unit addition to their Sprucelawn Apartments for Seniors complex in St. Jacobs. This includes 20 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom units. Construction, which started last April, is scheduled to be completed in August, with Driedger expecting the units to be ready for occupancy in October.
“We were a little late getting out of the ground. We had some challenges early on, but now since then, things have been moving quite nicely. That’s encouraging and exciting to see….On the fundraising side of things, we’d still like to raise another million dollars towards the construction costs. We have experienced some construction-related inflation, which has bumped that number up a little bit. And we still have our initial fundraising goal as well,” Driedger said.
The lowest cost for a unit at Sprucelawn will be under $500 a month, with the remaining one-bedroom units being in the $800-$900 range.
“That is more for somebody who’s on a very low income, but still considerably less than the average asking rent in the market right now,” Driedger said
While the income limit to qualify is $59,760 per year, Driedger noted the majority of tenants in the one-bedroom apartments will have incomes below $24,000.
On top of the Sprucelawn project, Beyond Housing is currently working on plans to develop the former Kiwanis House property in Elmira, which was approved by the township council in March. This project will see the non-profit build 24 back-to-back townhomes.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and community involvement to make that a reality because new construction isn’t cheap. There are some constraints on that lot due to the size of it, that will be a bit of a challenge as well, in terms of efficiencies for construction costs, and so we’re working already on some of the plans around that. But reality is likely going to be a couple of years away before we actually see a shovel in the ground there,” Driedger said.
They are also looking at projects in K-W; however, these are still in the early stages and depend on financing.
“The funding, whether it’s government or private funding, typically comes to projects that are shovel-ready. We have to do a lot of work in advance of any government funding to make sure that we have a proposal to present that is actually shovel-ready, as opposed to just an idea,” Driedger added.
The Out-Spok’n XIII Bike-a-Thon goes at 9 a.m. on June 10, meeting at the Elmira Mennonite Church with route options either to West Montrose and back or Wallenstein and back. There is also a remote option or a 60-km option which starts in The Observer parking lot at 7:30 a.m. More information and options to donate can be found at www.canadahelps.org.