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Budget ask to repair LMCH housing slashed by $55.9M after meeting with city staff: Report
LONDON, ONT. -- A budget request to repair London Middlesex Community Housing’s (LMCH) deteriorating stock of public housing was reduced by more than $50 million - before landing on desks of London city council.
Last June, LMCH told council that its 10-year infrastructure gap had ballooned to $456 million for its 3,282 geared-to-income units. But a business case to address the infrastructure gap in the draft 2020-2023 municipal budget seeks only $15.5 million over the next four years.
“It's actually an increase, it may not be the full increase that was initially envisioned, but we are hoping that this increase starts the process to start to fix units in a more aggressive way,” explains managing director, Housing, Social Services and Dearness Home, Sandra Datars Bere.
CTV News discovered a report prepared by LMCH staff in November that reveals the original business case requested $71.4 million over the four-year budget.
That amount was based on a recent Asset Management Plan prepared for the agency, but after a meeting with city hall administration, the figure was slashed, “…to keep overall business case requests under $24.3 million - per civic administration direction and an understanding that they could support an overall ask within this range.”
With security improvements and other needs included in other LMCH budget business cases, there’s just $15.5 million left to address the infrastructure gap.
“As a municipality, we have many pressures on our municipal budget. We are trying very hard to take a balanced and measured approach. We are clearly not going to get to everything. That's clear. We know that and other housing providers have that same challenge,” explains Datars Bere.
The November report warns that, “We will only be able to assure the shareholder (city hall) that we will improve the outcomes where we are able to invest.”
Anti-poverty advocate Abe Oudshoorn believes council should be made aware that more funding was initially requested, “I think it's so important that council knows exactly what numbers it is working with, what they are going to pay, and what the implications are long term.”
Housing is still prioritized in London’s multi-year budget. About 40 per cent of all new spending in the 26 business cases is related to public housing and homelessness.
Datars Bere emphasizes that includes an increase in funding for repairs at LMCH, “I think the increased dollars over the $2.2 million they currently get now will help us to get to a different spot, more than treading water, but clearly there's more to come after that process as well.”
Londoners are encouraged to tell council their budget priorities at a public meeting on Thursday at city hall.