The NG Times sat down with Alison Tutak, Director of Community and Social Services with the United Counties, to discuss the services provided by her department in North Grenville.
NG Times: North Grenville contributes to the Community and Social Services budget every year. What kind of services do we get, and how does the process work?
Alison: From a Joint Services context there are a number of services that Joint Services funds. These include all of the social services: social housing, social assistance (otherwise known as Ontario Works), childcare subsidy, the Ontario Early Years Centre, paramedic services, as well as provincial offences. North Grenville, as a member municipality of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville [UCLG], contributes to all those social services through the Joint Services. The United Counties operate those types of services on behalf of the entire county, including the three separated municipalities. The calculation of what North Grenville, or any Municipality, contributes is based on a formula which is specific to each of those services.
So what North Grenville would contribute to paramedic services is based on a certain formula, and it’s different for child care subsidy, different for social assistance, and different for social housing. So that helps to determine the breakdown of the contributions made by North Grenville towards the services. For example, The Pines, in Kemptville, is owned by the UCLG and is one of our social housing complexes in the North Grenville area. Aside from that building, the other programs that Housing would be involved in would be rent supplement agreements in the area. We directly subsidize people through rent supplement agreements. From a housing perspective, we also offer home ownership in which we have funded a number of people in the North Grenville area for home ownership, as well as for the Ontario Renovates program, for people of low income needing to do essential repairs on their homes. We also have some people receiving housing allowances. That’s a direct subsidy that we provide to people to help offset the high cost of rent.
So affordable housing isn’t just The Pines, we consider it as just one piece of the puzzle of the broader affordable housing conversation. In terms of eligibility for housing, that is based upon income, as well as being able to be eligible for what we call Rent Geared to Income housing [RGI], which is generally based upon 30% of your income. There is eligibility criteria linked to what your income level is, and household income limits. In terms of initial eligibility, you do have to be a Canadian citizen, you don’t have to be from North Grenville, you don’t have to be living in Leeds and Grenville. If you, for example, were living in London, Ontario and you wanted to move back to the North Grenville area, if you are originally from here, or you want to move here to be closer to a daughter, you can apply and be eligible to be on our waiting list for housing the same as anybody else.
NG Times: Have you noticed much of an increase in demand for services, all those services, over the last few years, or is it fairly constant?
Alison: The demand for actual RGI housing, probably remains constant. It hasn’t increased. Our RGI waiting list, in general, across the county has remained relatively steady. In fact, just a few years ago we did see a slight dip in the actual overall numbers of people waiting for RGI housing, so it’s not on a steady incline. It has tended to remain pretty stable for the last couple of years. We have certain buildings and certain locations which are in higher demand, just because of their proximity. In other areas we have minimal waiting lists, but we have a total of 667 RGI units managed by the county, and, in addition to that, we have another 287 RGI units that are operated by non-profits across Leeds and Grenville, and we have a number of rent supplement units which offer RGI housing.
And, from a Joint Services perspective, as part of our Strategic Plan we are hoping to have and create greater amounts of our RGI housing in North Grenville. We are currently in the process of selling some RGI homes in the town of Prescott and were looking to hopefully replace them in the North Grenville area.
NG Times: If you are moving them from Prescott to North Grenville, are you expecting a greater demand or need for those units in North Grenville?
Alison: Well, actually, in North Grenville aside from The Pines, we don’t have any other type of RGI housing options. So if I was a single mom, with a child, or two children, aside from Rent Supplement, which is extremely limited, its hard to find affordable rent. So, if I am a single mom with one or two children and I want RGI housing, and I want to live in the North Grenville area, I do not have options. And with the population having grown over the years and a booming service industry, with Walmart and Giant Tiger, Canadian Tire and everything else, those aren’t high paying jobs and the people who work there need to live somewhere. And it becomes difficult for us to measure the demand for family RGI housing in the North Grenville area, when you don’t have it. Recognizing that we are just in the process of selling off a few of the Prescott homes, working with the Ministry in terms of permission to do so, and looking at what opportunities exist to maybe expand the number of RGI options there are available in North Grenville, we are quite excited about it.