LONDON, ONT. -- A councillor’s letter including claims that affordable housing will 'harm' an east London neighbourhood has drawn a strong rebuttal from one of his colleagues.

In his letter sent to the Community and Protective Services (CAPS) Committee, Councillor Michael Van Holst highlights the concerns of some neighbours near a property on Elm Street purchased by city hall’s Housing Development Corporation.

“The concern is that additional affordable housing will harm the area since it already consists entirely of affordable housing,” his letter reads. “Further, the initiative would harm our attempts for urban redevelopment as expressed through the Hamilton Road C.I.P.”

Van Holst told committee members a petition has been signed by 80 to 90 neighbours uncertain about the city’s plan to build housing on the property that was formerly Holy Cross Elementary School.

“More affordable housing is not something the residents would be looking for, because of the demographics they feel might be attracted to an already challenged area,” Van Holst told the committee on Tuesday.

The CAPS Committee received the letter, but took no action.

“I don’t think that it’s helpful to stereotype affordable housing and homelessness prevention initiatives as somehow doing harm to an area,” asserts Councillor Shawn Lewis.

Lewis also worries the tone of Van Holst’s letter could harm the city’s efforts to address the housing crisis.

Currently 3,000 Londoners need affordable housing.

Van Holst’s letter also suggests,”London sometimes helps people in a way that makes the city seem worse instead of helping them in a way that makes the city seem better.”

Civic Administration told the committee that the site will include housing and a small park, but they are still working on the detailed design.

Councillor Lewis adds that new housing developments are diversified to help people with a wide range of needs and incomes.

Van Holst’s letter includes two proposed motions:

  • a) That plans for construction of park facilities or a community hub be brought forward as an alternative to residential development, or
  • b)That options for innovative housing developments be brought forward for the purpose of creating positive synergies in the area.

Van Holst said his letter was simply to communicate his residents’ concerns to city hall and offer alternatives before plans solidify.

“There may be some large scale resistance to a development, which I also see a need for because of our housing shortage. We should be prepared for that,” he said.

But Lewis says councillors have a responsibility to their constituents.

“It’s incumbent on us as councillors, when our community approaches us with these kinds of things, to push back a bit, educate, and say this is not the case.”Daryl

Eventually, when city hall seeks to rezone the site for housing, a public meeting will be held by the Planning and Environment Committee.