Council Fails Our Affordable Housing Residents

It’s ironic how Mayor Saunderson so loudly acclaimed the “Community-based strategic plan” last term (a document that was neither community-based nor a strategic plan) yet when a major issue arises around something important that was raised in that very “plan” he seems to be awfully silent.

I’m talking about the disaster that is the low-rent/affordable housing apartments at the corner of Second and High Streets. According to a recent story in CollingwoodToday, with the understated title: “Residents irate about conditions of affordable housing building”*

Tenants of Collingwood affordable housing hub, say they feel like ‘hostages’ in their apartments and are afraid for their safety ‘everyday’… “There is a lot of violence. We have drug dealers and drug (users) trying to get into the building all the time, being let in by tenants and then causing risk for others in the building,” she said. “(Simcoe County) Housing has been called for everything and they just say, they’re working on it.”

These are Collingwood residents and Collingwood should help. And, yes, I am aware that technically the authority for affordable housing units lies with Simcoe County. But these people live here and OUR council should take some responsibility for OUR residents’ welfare and safety. OUR mayor should have stepped up acted to made this a priority at county council. And yet…

You have to wonder why neither of our representatives on Simcoe County Council — neither Mayor Saunderson nor Deputy-Mayor Hull — stood up at county council and said something like this:

What can WE do to help? These are OUR residents in OUR town and we want to do whatever we can to help resolve their issues so they feel safe and secure again. We will act for the betterment of OUR own residents! We will help fix this!

And yet they said… nothing. Perhaps I expect too much of them… like living up to their oath of office. Like leadership. Like doing the job they were elected to do.

Meanwhile, the county passes the buck to the OPP, the OPP passes it back to the county and Collingwood… does nothing.

Yes, I am aware that such a statement of responsibility would take leadership, a spine, courage to act, and a real concern for the welfare of our residents. But perhaps our mayor is too busy in his job-hunting campaign to deal with such petty issues as our residents’ wellbeing.

Or, perhaps, council has lavished so much taxpayers’ money on the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI)  that they have none of our money left to spend on our residents, despite their dire situation. A responsible, compassionate government would have at the very least offered to put money towards better and more effective policing. Hire a security service. Install security cameras. Done SOMETHING to help. But council has offered… nothing.

That anti-plan so lauded by Saunderson included several references to the town’s responsibilities to affordable housing (both in the original (2015) and current versions):

Q11 – Workers
• Need to be clear that this includes attainable and affordable housing.
Q12 – Social Services
• Stronger more inclusive focus on disadvantaged and marginalized groups needed
• We need to seriously work on poverty related [sic] issues including mental health care, income security, food security and attainable and affordable housing.

But when there’s a real, actual problem with affordable housing, something that requires them to act, our mayor and his sidekick failed to come forward, failed to show leadership and failed to take responsibility. And the rest of council? Just ineffectually waving its hands, as usual. As the story notes a resident said,

Nobody cares. OPP tells us we’re supposed to call (Simcoe County) Housing. Housing tells us we’re supposed to call OPP… this has become my worst nightmare.

And for those who have accessibility and mobility challenges, problems are only compounded, as the story quotes:

From his perspective, the main issues with which tenants are dealing boil down to how long it takes for maintenance to deal with issues, the amount of criminal activity in the building — specifically drug use and sale — and the opening of common spaces of the building to the general public.

The lack of effective leadership at town hall in dealing with this problem is disturbingly clear. Our council’s inability or refusal to help its own citizens discredits any claims that the so-called “strategic plan” is more than window-dressing by a council more concerned about how they look than how they act.

This is a festering problem that is threatening the health and even the lives of local residents. It requires a mayor and council competent and compassionate enough to step forward and take responsibility to fix it. But, as you see, only hot air blows from town hall.

Collingwood deserves better.

~~~~~
* Not unexpectedly, Collingwood Connection did not cover the story or do any interviews nor investigative reporting on the problem. Perhaps it would look bad on their friends at council. But they have run stories on the rising costs of local housing. And they did run a story on councillors blowing their own horns about creating an “affordable housing task force” back in February, but, apparently, that was mere bloviation; council can’t be bothered dealing with a real problem when it arises.

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