City lend­ing a hand to Hope Cen­tre

The Welland Tribune - - Front Page - DAVE JOHN­SON

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.

DAVE JOHN­SON THE WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

Wel­land city coun­cil is waiv­ing fees and con­tribut­ing to The Hope Cen­tre’s new $3-mil­lion, two-storey, 20-unit af­ford­able hous­ing com­plex.

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