St. John’s city council wants to know what the provincial government plans to do about affordable housing.
At Monday’s regular city council meeting, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth — along with Coun. Danny Breen, a member of the mayor’s advisory committee on affordable housing — noted the provincial government’s recent consultations on the Residential Tenancies Act, centring around rules and regulations regarding renting. Ellsworth told Mayor Dennis O’Keefe the committee wants the mayor to write a letter to Dan Crummell, minister of Service NL, to formally find out what the province’s affordable housing plans are.
Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth (right) at the St. John’s city council meeting Monday night. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
“I had some discussions with Minister Crummell the last couple of days, and he’s indicated that they are working on it, but at this point there is no real plan yet,” Ellsworth said during Monday’s meeting. “I think it’s a good time for us to engage with them to try and develop strategies, because obviously here in St. John’s, we have a large residential rental rate. We’re struggling with a lot of young people, a lot of people on low incomes, certainly challenged with some of the increases we’ve seen in rentals out there.”
The committee also recommended the city initiate an intergovernmental meeting encompassing all levels of government to discuss housing issues, especially homelessness as well as access and affordability.
“No one level of government’s going to be able to solve it by themselves, and by working co-operatively together, we should be able to find a solution,” said Ellsworth.
Coun. Tom Hann said an intergovernmental meeting is very important, noting that affordable housing cropped up during the city’s recent pre-budget consultations, and suggested the city go further than just a meeting with government officials.
“Maybe what we should be planning in the future, for next year, is a major symposium on housing. We’ve had a number of meetings over the last two years involving some of the stakeholders,” he said. “Maybe what we need to be doing is once and for all involve all levels of government, all stakeholders, do a major symposium, and take a look at how we can solve some of the problems of public housing.”
After the meeting, Ellsworth said affordable housing is an issue that he takes quite seriously.
“I grew up in a single-parent family. This is very personal for me,” he said. “I do a lot of work in low-income neighbourhoods, I still sit in community centres, I still work with organizations out there that are in low-income neighbourhoods. … We have a lot of working poor, we have a lot of single parents out there, we have a lot of young parents working out there trying to make ends meet. Certainly, time is of the essence.”