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Port Hope needs more affordable housing units, council hears

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

PORT HOPE - 

Green Wood Coalition and the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee Advocacy sub-group made separate presentations at this week’s Port Hope council meeting, but they shared one plea — more low-cost rental units.

Though affordable housing is a crisis throughout the county, it is particularly of concern in Port Hope, which has the county’s longest wait times for existing stocks of affordable housing (up to seven years).

Though its population has grown 3.3% since 2011, Port Hope has seen no new affordable rental units built since 2006. This kind of situation creates an upward pressure on rents, with the result that the average rent for an available one-room apartment in Port Hope is $1,200 a month. Unfortunately, an individual on social assistance has a monthly income of $706.

Green Wood Coalition community director David Sheffield said, in a press release distributed following the council meeting, that solving this problem must be the central focus of government, because it is the first step in addressing more complex issues faced by those who live in poverty.

“If a person has stable housing, they are then able to work on health and dependency challenges,” Sheffield said.

“Imagine what it would be like to try to find work or feed your kids without a stable place to live. Housing is the biggest obstacle to solving a host of other problems.”

Green Wood board member Jeff Cane represented the organization in the presentation to council, which included their thanks for the community grant the municipality provided this year. Because of this support, they were able to launch the Art Hive, a free arts program that serves 40 participants — men, women and children — three times a week.

“I really encourage you to pop into the Greenwood office,” Deputy Mayor Greg Burns said to everyone.

“The artwork that hangs on the walls will absolutely amaze you — not only the artwork, but the reminder how the artwork is helping those people who are participating in the programs.”

Cane left council with a wish list that contained three items.

One would be 30 to 40 more affordable rental units for Port Hope.

Another would be more help for those living with addictions. This past year, Green Wood has partnered with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health unit in harm-reduction programs, which included weekly small group sessions and a needle exchange that saw more than 6,500 clean needles distributed.

Finally, Cane hoped that anyone who can might speak up in support of those who are homeless, hungry and hurting.

cnasmith@postmedia.com