Politicians and community supporters ceremoniously turned some soil last Friday at the official ground-breaking ceremony for the future MennoHomes affordable housing project in Elmira, marking the beginning of its construction.
Occupancy is slated for the spring of 2017 for the building which will be located on the same property as Woolwich Community Services on Church Street at Memorial Avenue.
They’ve raised $525,000 in donated dollars since October when they launched their capital campaign. The group needs $1.7 million in donations to complete the $3.1 million capital fundraising campaign.
MennoHomes executive director Dan Driedger addressed the crowd gathered around the former site of Procast Foundries.
“This site has been looking like this for many, many years and I know there’s a lot of people in the Elmira area who are excited about the fact that Woolwich Community Services is here with the Lions Resource Centre and that we are also now going to be able to have a spot right beside them responding to a very urgent need in Elmira for affordable housing,” Driedger said.
He explained in order to get their funding together from the region, through the province and the federal government last fall, they had to put together an affordable housing survey to identify and quantify the need here in Elmira. They received about 150 responses and out of those, 99 of them would have qualified for affordable housing according to the region’s wait list. Also, 75 of them had incomes under $30,000 a year, and 40 of those had incomes under $20,000 a year.
“So we often look around and say this is a very prosperous community and it is, but within that prosperity there are certainly needs that need to be responded to as well,” Driedger said.
It’s often noted how this will be the only apartment building in town with an elevator. He says that’s crucial.
“One in five falls causes a serious injury as broken bones or a head injury. More than 95 per cent of hip fractures are caused by falling and falling on stairways. Falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors and between 20 and 30 per cent of seniors fall at least once a year,” Driedger said.
The building will include 25 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. About 40 per cent of them will be single mature women, which they noticed was a large need from the survey. There will be families too because some who responded to the survey expressed they or someone in their family had mobility issues and nowhere to move to accommodate that.
Regional chair Ken Seiling explained the region was delegated the authority for housing back in 2000, which allowed them to consolidate funding from various levels of government and work with partners in the community because the days of governments building housing projects by themselves are long gone.
“Without people like MennoHomes these things wouldn’t be happening, so I just want to say thanks for the great work you’re doing,” Seiling said.
Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht noted he was involved with MennoHomes through his church even before he went into politics.
“What I liked particularly about MennoHomes is they don’t just put up a building and give you the keys and walk away. They actually help and walk with the people that are going to be occupying those homes and help them through many of the transitions,” Albrecht said.
His provincial counterpart in the riding, MPP Michael Harris, thanked the countless volunteers who’ve been busy campaigning for the project.
“Our community here in Woolwich is extremely generous. There’s a lot of significant projects that have made our community great and here is another example of one,” Harris said.
Mayor Sandy Shantz said the township is excited about the partnership and noted how it was just two years ago they were doing the groundbreaking for the new WCS building next door.
“This is a very giving community and I think that’s why we have the things that we do and that’s why we’re going to have this great housing facility,” Shantz said.
WCS executive director Don Harloff extended his gratitude to MennoHomes for partnering with them on the project so they could share the cost of the property.
“We arrive at this day with deep gratitude for the journey we’ve been on together with many of you. … This is a realization of a deep and beautiful dream that we’re continuing to unfold together,” said MennoHomes board chair Margaret Nally.
Anyone interested in donating can visit www.mennohomes.com/elmira.