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Housing York ranks inclusion, doubling community housing as top priorities

In York Region, 792 units are in the planning and development stage — 766 community housing units and 26 transitional units, general manager says
Screenshot 2022-04-14 at 09-21-29 Live StreamingB
Housing York Inc.

York Region is continuing to pursue its goal of doubling community housing, despite some challenges during the pandemic, according to Housing York general manager Kathy Milsom.

A total of 792 units are in the planning and development stage — 766 community housing units and 26 transitional units, according to a first quarter memo presented to the board of directors today, April 14. 

"Five actions that have been carried over from 2021 due to COVID-related operational pressures, such as industry-wide shortages of construction supplies and competing priorities," the memo from Milsom states.

With federal and provincial funding, more than 1,200 new affordable housing units have been built in York Region since 2004, of which 900 are managed by Housing York. Another 362 Housing York units, with 33 per cent of funding provided by federal and provincial governments, are set to open by 2023.

With a targeted rate of growth of 120 units per year, the goal is to create 4,800 new units and 792 replacement units over the next 40 years, Milsom said.

A key priority outlined in the 2022 Housing York business plan is to have communities that are inclusive by ensuring buildings are accessible to individuals with disabilities and that business processes and practices respect diversity.  

Workshops were held in February 2021 for the Housing Services’ leadership team and residents to encourage them to be respectful and not tolerate any form of discrimination, she said.

"We're fully committed to addressing issues of racism and discrimination in our buildings, communities and workplaces. We demonstrate zero tolerance for abusive or discriminatory behaviour," said Milsom.

As the communities and residents of the housing portfolio diversify, "This is super important," said Newmarket Mayor John Taylor, chair of Housing York.

Residents will be given the opportunity to participate in a survey this spring and summer of 2022 evaluating satisfaction with housing conditions, administrative process, and inclusion, according to Milsom.

The survey will reflect questions provided in a 2019 resident survey so comparisons can be made with previous results, she added.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and equity considerations will be incorporated in the survey to learn how to best communicate with residents, taking into consideration language preferences and comfort with emerging technologies.

Survey results will be reported in the first quarter of 2023.

A 2019 resident survey showed more than 20 per cent of residents in eight Housing York buildings speak Russian — 45 per cent of whom reside in two buildings. In light of the conflict in Ukraine, Housing York is providing wellness checks to Russian-speaking residents to ensure they're supported and connected to the appropriate services, according to Milsom.

When discussing proposals for new transitional housing developments in Georgina and East Gwillimbury, King Mayor Steve Pellegrini inquired if there is a policy for naming community housing facilities through private funding.

"There are a lot of very wealthy individuals throughout York Region and this would be an opportunity to get funds," he said in response to hearing that it was not.

Taylor suggested staff look into whether the naming policy has been employed by other jurisdictions saying, "If it has been successfully achieved elsewhere that means it's viable, I guess."

"York Region's a leader and not a follower," Pellegrini replied.