Helping Hand for Habitat

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 2:56:55 EST PM

Tim Miller/The Intelligencer Hastings County social services director Steve Gatward listens to a presentation during a committee meeting on Wednesday.

BELLEVILLE – Hastings County is looking to double-down on its assistance to the local Habitat for Humanity.
In October, Habitat for Humanity Prince Edward-Hastings executive director Bob Clute delivered a presentation to Hastings County council providing an overview of the accomplishments the organization had achieved to date, as well as the future plans to build additional Habitat for Humanity homes.

During that deputation Clute requested an increase in the funding allocation from Hastings County which would enable them to increase the number of families they assist with the purchase of a new home — from the original six to a total of 13 homes to be built between 2017 and 2020.

Currently, the county is entering its third year of a five-year commitment to provide $50,000 to Habitat annually.
The requested increase would jump that funding from $50,000 to $120,000 for 2017 and 2018 with another bump up to $150,000 in 2019.

Any increase in funding would have to come out of funds currently allocated for the Home Ownership Down Payment Assistance program which helps social housing residents wishing to buy single, detached social housing units currently being sold by the county, explained Hastings County social services director Steve Gatward at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“We provided that as an opportunity for those tenants to purchase the home that they were living in and we’ve exhausted those resources now so… we want to expand the home ownership program,” said Gatward, adding the program is now being opened up to the general public who meet criteria for assistance.

“Because we didn’t have the money used as well as we thought with our existing units, it makes this a possibility.
“We wanted to expand the opportunity for the people in the general public to take advantage of this program.
“Certainly, by helping people purchase a home, it has a huge positive impact in the quality of life for that family.”
Committee members were presented with four options on how to meet the increase request from Habitat, the first simply keeping the status quo with no increase to Habitat.

“If we’re to consider the other options, where we increase the allocation to Habitat, then we have to take that away from the public home ownership program,” said Gatward.

Option two would be to fully meet the request by Habitat, option three would see the county increase by 50 per cent of the requested funds and option four entailed simply doubling the $50,000 per year currently earmarked for Habitat.

“Are we going to cut somebody else short because we’re cutting their number down?” asked Tyendinaga reeve Rick Phillips about the resulting reduction in the home ownership program an increase in Habitat funding would cause.
“From a historical record we’ve had a low response to the public home ownership program,” said Gatward. “We believe we can accommodate this increase. It’ll still leave sufficient funds to allow the general public to access the home ownership program.”

The committee voted to recommend option four — increasing the funding allocation to Habitat for Humanity from $50,000 to $100,00 per year for 2017-2019 and decreasing the home ownership program down to $130,000 for 2017 and 2018 and $150,000 for 2019.

“Listening to staff, that seems to be a number that works well with our homes and certainly give a lift to Habitat,” said committee chairman Garnet Thompson.

“I think it’s a good choice.”