It’s a start.
With a $1 million conditional approval granted to the Gateway Village Corporation, eight affordable, accessible housing units will be built in Port aux Basques.
In making the announcement on July 17, Long Range Mountains MP praised all three levels of government for coming together to secure the funding.
"I really hope people on the ground see it, is a great collaboration, a great working relationship between between federal, provincial and municipal governments, and we haven’t had that in a long time,” said Hutchings. “It’s because of those relationships that we’re able to come up with these programs to benefit everybody all across Canada.”
Joining Hutchings in making the announcement were Burgeo–La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons, and the minister Responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation Lisa Dempster.
Dempster called Parsons relentless in lobbying on behalf of the Gateway Village Corporation’s application, which was one of 42 received.
“I don’t think we can overstate the significance of this. This is a huge investment. This is a million dollars into our area,” said Parsons.
Parsons noted that in an age of often-times negative social media and mainstream news, the affordable housing announcement was yet another positive one for the area.
“The fact is there’s a lot of progress going on here. A brand-new Coast Guard building, daycare, we’ve got housing coming up here, Marine Atlantic’s going to make an announcement – there’s a lot going on in this area,” said Parsons, who also pointed out recent road repairs. “People notice this stuff, and it only happens because we’re all working together. You look at something like the daycare, which is a provincial facility, but the town and the feds played a huge role in making that happen.”
Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer spoke on behalf of the Gateway Village Corporation.
He announced that the new units will be built on the site of the former Bruce Arena, which has been left largely untouched since it burned to the ground on Sept. 24, 1995.
“It’s time for us to put something back on that hill that’s going to make a significant impact on this town and its community,” he said. “This is the first step.”
Spencer pointed to town manager Leon MacIsaac and said, “This guy is going to bring it in on time, on budget.”
MacIsaac hopes to begin construction this fall, but environmental assessments will have to be completed first. Given the fire damage that destroyed the Bruce Arena, it’s hard to predict exactly how long that will take.
“We’re going to do them in blocks of four, so as one block of four is done we’ll be starting on the next four,” said MacIsaac. “You’re looking at probably six months for the first four, at least, and if we make good progress we’ll start on the second set of four.”
Starting with eight
MacIsaac acknowledges that eight units is not nearly enough. He estimates roughly 60 residents have contacted the town to show interest.
“We will make it as fair to everyone as possible,” said MacIsaac. “I know that some people will be disappointed, but fortunately some eight will be lucky.”
The long-term goal is to solicit more funds to continue building even more affordable housing units.
Promises MacIsaac, “We’re not stopping at eight.”
“I’m also responsible for the status of persons with disabilities,” Dempster said. “You go into that portfolio thinking you have some concept of the barriers and the challenges that some of these people face, but you have no understanding until you get into the department.”
Dempster says she has learned a lot when it comes to accessibility issues.
“It’s not an extra cost to have your doorknobs down lower,” she said. “It’s not an extra cost to have your bathrooms done right in the beginning, but those things make a tremendous difference to some of these people living with challenges.”