City lending a hand to Hope Centre
Building permit fees and site exemption plan fees for The Hope Centre’s new $3-million, twostorey, 20-unit affordable housing complex were waived by Welland city council Tuesday night.
Councillors also approved a partnership contribution to the project, to be started this July, in the amount of $30,458.
All told, it is a $44,307 break for the Welland agency.
Despite the vote, Couns. Claudette Richard, Mary Anne Grimaldi and Bonnie Fokkens were opposed to the city’s contribution of $30,458.
Steve Zorbas, the city’s chief financial officer, also cautioned council over the amount.
“We don’t have funding sources for these dollars,” he said, adding deadlines for asking the city for capital grants had long passed.
Fokkens, a Ward 6 councillor, had no problem with waiving the first two fees but was not in favour of the partnership contribution.
Ward 1’s Grimaldi said the city has a budget process that should be followed.
“We have many non-profit groups ask for funding. I know the Hope Centre does tremendously great work, but others do the same,” she said.
Grimaldi felt it is a slippery slope to be handing out funds just because someone made a presentation to council.
“There’s a budget process that needs to be followed … we shouldn’t be doing this with the public purse,” she added.
Richard, a Ward 5 councillor, asked Sarah Phillips, who made a presentation on behalf of the Hope Centre, if there was a backup plan if the request was not approved.
Phillips, an affordable housing and project management services specialist, said there was no real backup plan. She said if the funding levels required to be met by the Hope Centre were not achieved, funding for the project could be reduced.
When the project came together, 75 per cent of the cost was being borne by Niagara Region through the Home for Good program, with the Hope Centre kicking in the other 25 per cent.
Phillips said everything was being done to reduce as much as the cost of the project as possible by working with various partners and suppliers.
With a decrease in funding, she told council, the Hope Centre would have an increased mortgage.
Council also heard that if the request was granted, the Hope Centre would not be back for any more funding for the affordable housing project.
Ward 6 Coun. Jim Larouche, who made an amendment to grant the request instead of just
receiving the presentation for information, said it is a unique situation.
“This project is investing in our community,” he said.
Ward 4 Coun. Pat Chiocchio asked about the affordable housing wait time in Welland.
Phillips said it was six years for a bachelor apartment and 15 years for a one bedroom unit. Those figures were for Welland, she said.
“I see a need here in the community and the Hope Centre is doing its best to alleviate the problem,” said Chiocchio, who was in support of the motion.
Ward 2 Coun. Leo Van Vliet said while he agreed the city should probably stick with the budget process, council owed it to the people to bend the rules a bit.
Van Vliet spoke of learning about a person who had been living in their car for the last six weeks.
“That should not happen.” Larouche said the build is unique and cutting-edge — it’s aiming to be a net-zero facility. “We have to do this,” he said. The motion to grant Hope Centre’s request passed but must go before council at its next meeting and passed there.
Welland city council is waiving fees and contributing to The Hope Centre’s new $3-million, two-storey, 20-unit affordable housing complex.