Thursday, November 18, 2010

A place to call home - Shelter Affordable Housing Day set for next week (as published int he daily Gleaner November 18/10)

In many communities, as soon as the phrase "affordable housing" is uttered, out come the "not-in-my-back-yard" (NIMBY) protestors. All the old myths and stereotypes are trotted out, tempers flare and sometimes legal action is threatened.

Although NIMBYism still surfaces from time to time in Fredericton, I think it's safe to say that we have come a long way as a community. Even if I think there is more the city should be doing in the area of social policy, full marks are deserved for the progress in supporting the development of affordable housing over the past few years.

The work that's been done through the City of Fredericton's Affordable Housing Committee under the leadership of Councillor Mike O'Brien is the envy of many other communities. The committee combines the efforts of the three levels of government, non-profit organizations, business groups, off-reserve Aboriginal representatives and private developers.

The accomplishments have been significant. Just take a look at the developments that are providing safe, clean affordable accommodations to seniors, non-elderly single men and women and families, many of whom just had no decent options in a city where the rental rates can be expensive relative to some incomes. There are many subsidized apartments located in mixed income developments, units by Avide Cooperative that are running smoothly or under construction, the Skigin-Elnoog rental and home ownership programs, the John Howard Society's supportive apartments and the list goes on.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 23, there will be an excellent opportunity to learn about what's being done elsewhere in the country to help many take the next big step into home ownership. It is the 4th annual Affordable Housing Day being organized by the Fredericton Affordable Housing Committee.

Michel Labbé, a Toronto-based leading Canadian social entrepreneur with 25 years experience in the production of affordable housing, will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Labbé is an Urban and Regional Planning graduate from the University of Waterloo. Since 1992, he has been president of Options For Homes Non-profit Corporation, which was instrumental in developing a model that provides mixed-income housing without any permanent government subsidy.

"We have chosen the theme "I work in Fredericton. Can I afford to live here, too?" for this year's forum," said Mike O'Brien in announcing the event. "We are delighted to have a speaker of Mr. Labbé's expertise and experience."

"To date, Options has provided home ownership opportunities to more than 3,700 households across Canada. There are also 10 active affiliated organizations using the Options model across Canada and abroad, including Access Condos in Montreal, Options for Homes Waterloo and Options for Homes Greater Sudbury in Ontario, and Options for Homes Romania."

The previous Affordable Housing Days have helped solidify the progress that has been made and provided a forum for open and frank discussion.

This one promises to continue that work with what is being billed as a community dialogue session moderated by Fredericton architect John Leroux. This interdisciplinary panel of community leaders will discuss affordable housing, inclusionary zoning, mixed-use planning, sprawl, density, sustainability and more. A question and answer session with the audience will follow.

Affordable Housing Day begins with registration at 11:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza. A complimentary lunch will be available with opening remarks set for 12 noon. It is expected to wrap up by 4 p.m.

Affordable Housing Day is a free event and is open to anyone with an interest in affordable housing. Advance registration is required by contacting Joanne Thomson at 506-460-2188 or via email at

Brian Duplessis is the executive director of the United Way/Centraide of Central N.B. and can be reached at

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