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Liberals pledge $2 million for housing

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Cornerstone Community Association Durham Inc. will receive federal funding for an affordable housing project in Oshawa.

The federal government and Cornerstone recently announced a financial commitment from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund of $2.15 million for the project set to be located at 440 Bloor Street East.

The funding will go towards the construction of a three-storey apartment building consisting of 21 units.

Cornerstone executive director Robert Brglez says it will go a long way towards housing the homeless in Oshawa.

He notes they will be using the parking lot next to their current building.

“Because our tenants were all previously homeless, and this is affordable housing, none of them own cars,” says Brglez. “For 20 years that parking lot has sat empty. So, the city has provided us an exemption and we can build in that parking lot.”

He notes the new building will also be used to house those who are at risk of becoming homeless, as well as those with mental health and addiction issues.

Brglez says a number of organizations applied for the loan, noting the need for affordable housing is so great across Canada, the federal government could have chosen any community.

“Affordable housing that is available to the most marginalized people in the community is not existent everywhere,” he says.

He believes one unique thing about Cornerstone’s tenants is all of them were previously homeless.

“We’re an organization that works with what’s called ‘the hard to house,’” explains Brglez. “So, we’re not just working with somebody who has experience being             periodically homeless, we’re housing the chronically homeless, and what is called episodically homeless. Those who can’t seem to break out of the homelessness cycle.”

Brglez hopes the construction of the apartment building will help to alleviate the issue in the city.

“The thing is those 21 units will not just assist 21 individuals,” Brglez says. “You look at our other buildings that have been here for over 20 years, hundreds of people go through those buildings, and get stabilized, and many move out and become independent, and so those 21 units will help a significant number of individuals get housed, and get stable.”

The residual benefit of cost savings to the community when people are housed is significant, Brglez adds.

“Housing an individual, and helping to stabilize that individual, reduces costs to         healthcare, emergency rooms, hospitals, police, [emergency medical services], all of the services that are normally needed quite extensively by people when they’re on the street, are no longer needed, or are reduced to a very small amount,” says Brglez.

The announcement was made by Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary for Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos. Speaking with The Oshawa Express, Vaughan says Cornerstone is in a good position to get rolling on the project.

“They had land. I think that’s one of the most important things. Having land in the back pocket means the project is going to be realized quickly, and one of the biggest hurtles to deciding affordable housing in the GTA is the price of land,” says Vaughan.

He also notes Cornerstone has a “strong track record” and a history of providing good, strong, supportive housing.

“It didn’t require a whole new set of programs to be created at a whole new site, it’s allowed us to extend a good, strong program by the adjacency factor, and their track record is a good one,” he says. He also notes he believes there is a need in Oshawa.

“Homelessness comes from every corner of the GTA, and therefore the solutions to homelessness need to be found in every corner, and some of the challenges Oshawa is facing, it was obvious that we needed to make sure that we delivered the jobs, the financial support, and quite frankly the engagement to make sure that Oshawa gets the help it needs,” says Vaughan.