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A special federal program set up during the pandemic to get affordable housing built fast is providing close to $20 million for three projects in Windsor and Leamington that will see 61 new residential units built this year for families and individuals.

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“Each and every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” federal Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen said during an announcement in west Windsor on Thursday.

“On the timelines, we’re very strict — it’s 12 months or less,” Hussen said when asked about project completion and move-in dates.

All eyes are smiling a little more this morning

Partnering with the city and the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corp. (WECHC), 12 new units will be located at 3351 Bloomfield Road, on city-owned property next to existing subsidized housing where Thursday’s announcement was made. The focus will be on securing safe and affordable accommodation for vulnerable people at risk of homelessness.

A second 15-unit project to be operated by WECHC will be located at 462 Crawford Ave., with a WECHC spokesman saying the development will fit in with neighboring properties.

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Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen speaks during a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city.
Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen speaks during a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

An eight-unit development at 310 Sherk St. in Leamington will be managed by the Bridge Youth Resource Center and geared towards young adults, women, Indigenous people and Black Canadians.

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Two projects, totaling 26 units, will be led by the Caldwell First Nation and offer townhomes and four-plexes for seniors and other members of the Caldwell community.

“Today is an exciting day for Caldwell,” said Chief Mary Duckworth.

But looking at the big picture — Windsor-Essex County, for example, has an affordable housing waiting list of more than 5,000 families — she added: “We are failing as leaders to provide enough housing for our people.”

Hussen said “affordable housing is vital to the well-being of Canadians,” and he hinted at additional future announcements. “I have no doubt there is more good news to come,” he said, referring to the $72 billion pot of money the federal Liberals have committed to invest through a 10-year National Housing Strategy.

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Caldwell First Nation Chief Mary Duckworth, left, MP Irek Kusmierczyk and Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen chat at a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city.
Caldwell First Nation Chief Mary Duckworth, left, MP Irek Kusmierczyk and Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen chat at a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

The pandemic, in particular, highlighted the need for safe and affordable homes as places of refuge for people, said Hussen, explaining that it was the reason federal funding for an anti-homeless program was doubled to $700 million. The original plan, he said, was to reduce chronic homelessness, but the goal is now to end it.

As residential real estate prices in his own city skyrocket, Mayor Drew Dilkens said government investments in housing, including Windsor’s own $170-million multi-year capital spending commitment on social housing, are important. He said he anticipates his own young adult children still in school will eventually get well-paid jobs but worries about how they will afford their own homes.

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With the average sales price for a Windsor home last month exceeding $700,000, “that is extremely unaffordable for the average person,” he said.

Of the 61 units announced Thursday, proponents said they will be modern and aesthetically pleasing and energy efficient.

Essex County Warden Gary McNamara said the county has committed to cover any Bridge Youth Resource Center operating shortfalls of up to $48,000 annually over the next 20 years.

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald spoke of the courage of Chief Duckworth and others who “stepped up to allow these projects to happen.” Building affordable housing, she said, can’t happen without “partners with money” like the federal government. The results, she said, represent “a legacy that is satisfying… (and) betterment of the communities around us.”

“All eyes are smiling a little more this morning,” MP Irek Kusmierczyk (L — Windsor-Tecumseh) said as he introduced the minister on a warm, sunny St. Patrick’s Day, while also referring to the federal government’s same-day announcement that mandatory COVID-19 testing would soon end at the border.

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Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, left, speaks during a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city.
Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, left, speaks during a press conference in Windsor on Thursday, March 17, 2022 regarding new housing in the city. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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