Will Pearson  - 
July 27, 2021

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Hi there, and welcome to the Peterborough Currents newsletter.

Last night was supposed to be the final city council meeting before councillors take their August break. But after more than four hours of delegations from citizens and another hour-and-a-half spent in closed session, councillors voted to recess the meeting and continue it this Thursday night.

It’s a busy meeting, with transit, cycling, construction of a new arena and more on the agenda. But for this newsletter, I want to focus on one agenda item in particular. Let’s get to it!

Business case recommends the City’s commissioner of community services also serve as CEO of new municipal housing corporation

At last night’s meeting, city councillors received a draft business case for the proposed municipal housing corporation that will take over some of Peterborough Housing Corporation’s properties in order to redevelop them.

(If you haven’t been following this story, you can catch yourself up here.)

Last night was the latest step forward for the City in its major shakeup of how social and affordable housing is governed locally. The municipality is taking more control of PHC’s housing portfolio in an effort to redevelop it and build over 1,000 new housing units.

The business case presented last night gave the first indications of what the corporate structure and personnel will look like. Notably, the corporation won’t have any employees. “Rather, resources will be provided through shared staffing arrangements with the City and PHC with third party advisors retained,” the business case suggests.

The CEO and President of the new corporation should be the City’s commissioner of community services, the business case recommends.

I asked Sheldon Laidman, the current commissioner of community services, whether the CEO position would come with additional remuneration. He wrote that this would be up to the corporation’s board of directors, but “the intent would be this forms part of the Commissioner’s normal responsibilities and remuneration.”

Who will be on the board of directors? The business case recommends the initial board be made up of five city councillors.

That means councillors would govern both the new corporation and what’s left of the PHC — they voted in June to oust the PHC board members and replace them with a “transitional board” made up of four city councillors and one County councillor.

A lot of questions remain to be answered. Not least of which: How many of the 1,000+ new units will be affordable, and exactly how much will their rents be?

That will depend on the funding application that gets submitted to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Laidman wrote to me.

But even before the City proposed taking this project over, PHC had put together its own plan to redevelop its properties, and that plan might give us an indication of what’s possible. According to consultants at KPMG, who reviewed the plan, PHC’s intention had been to make 85 percent of the units affordable and 15 percent of them market rate. (PHC’s original plan for the project was not made public and CEO Darlene Cook declined to share it with me, saying it was no longer relevant.)

But the City now needs to draw up its own plan for the redevelopment, and the CMHC’s funding rules are different for municipalities than they are for non-profits, so it’s not clear whether the City can access as much funding as the PHC’s non-profit could have. (Less funding almost certainly means higher rents.)

In the spring, I reached out to the CMHC to ask how much funding the envisioned municipal corporation would be eligible for. Citing privacy concerns, a CMHC media spokesperson told me they could not comment.

So … what’s next for this project? Public consultations will be held over the coming months. Councillors will receive the results of those consultations, along with the final business case, to approve in October.

The City’s goal is to submit a funding application to the CMHC by winter/spring of 2022, Laidman wrote. The CMHC’s website says applications can take up to 289 days to be approved, which would suggest that the initial goal of beginning construction by late 2022 is already looking hard to achieve.

If you engage in the public consultations around this issue over the summer and have any questions as you participate, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll try to answer them for you!


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