Northwestern Ontario’s housing needs getting overlooked: Kenora MP

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Canadian Press

Kenora’s Member of Parliament has echoed the Mayor’s claims that the federal government may be purposefully overlooking Kenora with its new Housing Accelerator Fund.

Last week, Mayor Andrew Poirier expressed frustration at the fact that Kenora has yet to receive anything from the Government of Canada’s Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), despite the city submitting an “aggressive” application.

Kenora isn’t an outlier though, the only municipalities in northwestern Ontario to get funding were Thunder Bay and Marathon, nearby. This led Poirier to feel that the decision of where to send the money was made based on party politics rather than the merit of each municipalities’ application, as Kenora’s Member of Parliament, Eric Melillo, is a Conservative, while the MP for Thunder Bay – Superior North is a Liberal.

The HAF, launched last March, is a program designed to fund municipalities to help fast-track the construction of housing across the country. To be considered, municipalities had to submit an application last summer, and according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), there were 544 applications submitted, and 179 of them led to signed agreements.

Poirier and Melillo have been in conversation about the lack of housing funding for the region, and the two share some of the same concerns.

“It’s definitely a concern that municipalities in our region have been overlooked,” Melillo told the Miner and News on April 16. However, in fairness, he said, the CMHC announced funding for multiple First Nation communities within the riding, such as Wapekeka and Wunnumin, on April 5.

“But still, looking at the Kenora District Municipal Association (held earlier in the year), with such a great housing need we have, it was shocking to me to see that not a single one of the municipalities has been able to be successful so far with their applications,” said Melillo.

All other municipalities in Ontario that received funding are in and around the Greater Toronto Area and southwestern Ontario like Ajax, Whitby, Guelph, Cambridge and Tecumseh.

“I think we’ve seen too much of this housing support go to large urban centers primarily, which I don’t want to take away from their housing needs,” said Melillo, “but we do have disproportionately high housing needs in northwestern Ontario that seem to be getting overlooked.”

In his opinion, Mayor Poirier has been a “great advocate” for Kenora and its housing needs, as the city’s application to the HAF included plans for 700 new housing units. Melillo has also been advocating for housing support in the region by “being an additional voice” for mayors across the riding at the federal level.

Melillo is skeptical about the effectiveness of the HAF because the federal government has not been able to provide information on the amount of houses the fund has built so far, though the first agreements with municipalities were only made last fall.

While he can’t outright confirm or deny if the agreements for funding were made with municipalities based on party politics, “it definitely is a concern that I would share with the mayor,” Melillo said.

“And if it is the case that happened, it’s very, very unfortunate that the government would put party politics ahead of something as critical as getting homes built for people who need it.  “Since I’ve been elected, we’ve had success being able to secure funding for municipalities in the region, but to have the whole region completely shut out like this is a shock,” he said.

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