Michael Schwartz –
Delegates at Feb. 26 meeting of the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association (SLNA) at the Older Women’s Network co-op heard good news and bad news from guest speaker Pam McConnell.
McConnell started her presentation by revealing a crisis in public housing. Money for maintenance is drying up, leaving some residents under the threat of “conditions under which no-one should have to live.”
In its 2013 budget, the federal government announced a five-year renewal of the Investment in Affordable Housing program to invest in new affordable housing projects—but federal funding for existing social housing units will decline from almost half a billion dollars a year for Ontario to zero by 2033. Some units have already lost their funding, and many more will in the next few years.
In McConnell’s opinion, spending 8 cents out of every tax dollar on housing is not enough—especially when the future viability of non-profit housing developments is at stake.
The good news came when McConnell gave a report on the proposed seniors’ centre to be included in the redevelopment of the St. Lawrence Market complex.
Some SLNA delegates expected McConnell to be peppered with questions about the size of the seniors’ centre. Recent rumours had located the centre in the North market, but had limited it to 500 square feet. Delegates—including Neighbourhood newcomers making their first foray into local issues—were planning to challenge McConnell to keep the original plan for 900 square feet.
McConnell allayed their concerns about the size of the centre, and even outlined plans for a yoga area and room for lectures to take place.
Full funding for the Market project was approved in late 2013 even though the project budget had ballooned from $74 to $96 million because of revisions needed to the original costing of the parking requirements. The new Market (with the embedded seniors’ centre) is expected to open in 2016.
The SLNA delegates also discussed the new library on Parliament St. and guidelines for events organized in the St Lawrence Neighbourhood.
The guidelines identified key areas of interest for Neighbourhood residents and assume that all events will comply with city by-laws, guidelines, practices and rules around noise, hours of operation, traffic, etc. That being said, the guidelines outlined five areas of particular interest: accessibility, noise, garbage and sanitation, set-up and teardown, and traffic and crowd control.
In addition, the guidelines recommend “good advance planning and consultations between all of the major stakeholders” to “allow time to identify and address any particular concerns. This could include creation of a neighbourhood site map indicating placement of activities and the communication of a key contact list with names and contact numbers to the boards of buildings immediately affected by the event, to be used for emergencies.”