An empty field behind a current Huron County owned social housing apartment complex will soon be home to even more affordable housing in Exeter, Ont.
“Huron County realizes that we have a housing shortage, throughout the County. So, the best way to eat an elephant is a bite at a time,” said Huron County Warden Glen McNeil.
McNeil is referencing the size of the Exeter project. While not huge, you have to start somewhere. And with $6.4 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments, Huron County only needs to spend $1.1 million to complete the $7.5 million project.
“Twenty units is a good start, and we’re very, very pleased, and excited about it, but the job never ends. We’ve got to continue to pursue housing, because in a few more years from now, we’re going to need more. We need to start the argument and discussion now,” said Municipality of South Huron Mayor George Finch.
While the 20-unit Exeter project is being lauded Friday, it is just the tip of the iceberg. More will be needed to pull people out of houselessness, and prevent others from slipping into houselessness.
You need only use the recent example of Julie Hamilton in Wingham, Ont. She was left without an apartment after a new landlord promised a renovation, only to change the locks and increase the building’s rent from $550-$600 per month, to $1600/month. She lived in a tent for over a month before moving in with a friend.
Architectural rendering of a 20-unit affordable housing project announced July 28, 2023, in Exeter. (Source: Huron County)
Hamilton isn’t alone, there is currently a 600 household waitlist for Huron County’s rent geared to income buildings. New projects, like the six units almost completed on Bennett Street in Goderich, the 20 to be built on Sanders Street in Exeter, and the 39-unit building proposed for Goderich’s Gibbons Street will help, but will just make a dent in the overwhelming demand.
“Homelessness and the need for a variety of housing, including affordable and attainable, is as much needed in rural Ontario as it is in urban Ontario,” said Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, who was at Friday’s Exeter announcement.
For those already living in Huron County’s social housing, the addition of more units, is a welcomed sight.
“I think this is about time that this comes to our place here. I’m excited. I’m going to sit right out on my porch and watch,” said current Huron County social housing tenants Joeanne Durand and Joyce Bowman, who live right next door to the proposed 20 unit Exeter project.
Construction on Exeter’s newest affordable housing project is to begin this fall, and be ready for tenants by next fall, according to McNeil.
Architectural rendering of a 39-unit affordable housing project by Huron County is proposed to be built in Goderich. (Source: Huron County)