Subsidized apartments built through church and government partnership

Danette Dooley
Published on November 5, 2011
Eleanor Grandy in her new apartment in St. John’s. — Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

After working for over 50 years, Eleanor Grandy retired from her job as a receptionist at a local law firm, nine months shy of her 70th birthday.

The 72-year-old says before moving into a subsidized housing unit on Empire Avenue in St. John’s in July, she struggled to pay her bills.

Originally from Fortune, Grandy moved to the St. John’s area more than two decades ago.

Her money woes began when her daughter died two years ago. They’d been renting a home and sharing expenses.

Grandy lives on less than $1,400 a month.

Their rent was $995 a month.

An independent woman her entire life, she found herself suddenly relying on her family to help her make ends meet.

“If it hadn’t been for my son and my sister and my grandson, I don’t know what I would have done. I didn’t do without, but it was so difficult,” she said.

Not only is her rent subsidized in her new two-bedroom apartment, the space is easier to heat, she said.

Eastern Gate Church built the 12-apartment unit where Grandy now lives. The project is a partnership between the church and the federal/provincial Affordable Housing Program. There are two fully accessible apartments in the building.

A second housing unit being constructed in the same area and under the same partnership is expected to open in spring 2012. It will also have two fully accessible apartments.

Grandy says Pastor Gord and Louise Young of Eastern Gate Church are great landlords. If there’s ever an issue, day or night, she said “Pastor Gord” not only fixes the problem, he sings his way through it.

“They are to be commended so much. These places are so needed.”

Grandy would like to see the provincial government reach out more to churches and other groups to construct homes for low-income people.

“People think that because you are getting your (government) pension and your supplement, that you’re fine. But until you walk in somebody’s shoes, you don’t know,” she said.

Tom Hedderson, the minister responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., said the project with Eastern Gate Church is one of many partnerships throughout the province between the provincial and federal government and the private and non-profit sectors.

Hedderson said the agreement with Eastern Gate Church is for 10-years.

The government provides $125,000 per unit for the building’s construction. At the end of the decade-long deal, the church owns the building, he said.

For partnerships with the non-profit sector, including churches, the funding is increased to $150,000 per unit if the construction takes place in Labrador, he said.

The government also supports similar partnerships with the private sector by providing $40,000 per unit on the island and $55,000 per unit for Labrador-based projects.

The money helps subsidize the rent, he said.

Hedderson said the initiatives match the goals of the province’s social housing plan.

Since 2003, the provincial and federal governments have contributed — on a 50/50 cost-shared basis — more than

$67 million towards the construction of 888 affordable units in  this province.

An affordable housing agreement signed in August will provide an additional $16 million over the next three years to build 240 new affordable units throughout the province, Hedderson said.

The Eastern Gate Church project attracted national attention recently when a film crew from “100 Huntley Street” came to St. John’s and interviewed Grandy, as well as Kate Moffatt, the executive director of program delivery and planning with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., and Glenn Furlong, a corporate representative with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.

“100 Huntley Street” reports on faith-related social issues throughout the country.

The segment filmed in St. John’s is expected to air in early 2012. Grandy hopes it will highlight the need for affordable housing and what can happen when people come together to make that happen.

 “I’m so grateful. I’m so blessed. I don’t even need to put an extra blanket on the bed nighttime. This was ordained of God,” she said.