Affordable one-bedroom apartments hard to come by
The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. is facing greater challenges meeting the demographic needs of the province. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
The demographic needs of Newfoundland and Labrador when it comes to housing are among the greater challenges facing the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., (NLHC) according to its chairman and CEO.
"Probably half of the people on our wait lists are people who need one-bedroom apartments," said Len Simms.
"They're single, or they're a couple. We don't have very many one-bedroom apartments."
The NLHC is the largest landlord in the province, with more than 8,500 affordable housing units.
"We have a role to play, but everybody has to work to solve problems," said Simms.
"We don't have all the answers, and we can't fix all the problems."
The primary focus of the NLHC is to provide affordable housing opportunities to residents of the province with low incomes or disabilities.
"That sometimes gets confused with the issue of housing affordability. That's the other issue, which is generally market-driven - the prices of houses and increased rentals. That's not the area we have the responsibility or mandate for. Our mandate is the people that are most vulnerable, and that's what we focus on."
To accommodate the needs of people looking for single-bedroom units - many of whom are seniors - Simms said NLHC's rent supplement program has been put to great use. The program handles approximately 1,700 placements.
"Those are placements we make in partnership with a landlord. We inspect the apartments and that sort of thing, and we provide a rent supplement to the landlord to assist the low-income person who's on our wait list."
Tuesday's provincial budget contained some news on housing. The province announced the NLHC will contribute $2.7 million towards the federal-provincial affordable housing initiative as part of its $8.1-million, three-year commitment to build 254 affordable housing units across Newfoundland and Labrador.
The poverty reduction strategy received an $11.3-million boost, to bring its budget to $150.8 million for 2012.
Simms serves on the deputy minister's committee for the Department of Advanced Education and Skills - the department in charge of overseeing the strategy.
"We've been part of the poverty strategy since Day 1," said Simms.
The NLHC's 10-year social housing plan, called Secure Foundations, was developed in co-operation with community partners such as Choices For Youth and Stella Burry Community Services.
"Not only do we do it in partnership with them and with their help, but they're actually the ones who probably designed this in the end," said Simms.
The NLHC has implemented measures to improve the plan since it was unveiled in 2009. Simms said the organization is receptive to input and has implemented many of the ideas brought forward by interested parties.
Between its non-profit focused supportive housing projects and private sector partnerships to offer affordable rental units to the public, Simms said, more than 1,100 new affordable housing units will have been built by March 2014. That date marks the expiration of the current federal-provincial initiative on affordable housing.
Simms said he is hopeful that initiative will be renewed in some form.
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