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County seeking affordable housing land in Sarnia area

Troy Shantz Lambton County is pursuing a plan to build more affordable housing in the Sarnia area.

Troy Shantz

Lambton County is pursuing a plan to build more affordable housing in the Sarnia area.

County council has directed staff to look for land in the city or in Point Edward suitable for up to 24 single-bedroom units in an affordable housing complex.

Lambton has set aside $1.17 million. If a provincial grant is successful they will have a total of $2.5 million to proceed.

“It all depends on the funding opportunities that we have,” said county housing manager Kelly Hall. “It depends on the dollars that we have available, as to how much land and how many units.”

The demand is strong locally for affordable housing.

Lambton already has 830 geared-to-income units at 16 sites, including Sarnia, Petrolia and Forest. Some house families but one-bedroom units are in highest demand, she said.

About 575 individuals and families are on a waiting list and most are “precariously housed or homeless,” Hall said. About 90% want one-bedroom units.

Applicants willing to accept any location normally wait up to two years for approval, while those requesting a specific building can wait up to five years.

Lambton has partnered with various non-profit and private organizations to run the housing sites, and in the past two years has added 74 units.

But the new project, part of the Lambton’s five-year housing and homelessness plan, would be the first of its kind in a decade, Hall said.

The last affordable housing complexes were opened on Kathleen Avenue and Maxwell Street.

The new plan calls for permanent, modular housing that’s prefabricated in a factory and trucked and assembled on-site, a construction option that’s faster than conventional home building.

Rents would be set at a maximum 80% of the market average for the community.

The county is also considering a partnership with a community agency to provide supportive housing in the building for some residents with mid-to-low acuity levels.

Lambton would own and manage the site within the existing operating budget, it said.

A provincial grant, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s social services relief, could be approved any time, Hall said.

Federal funding has also been requested.

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