LONDON, ONT. -- He himself called it 'ambitious,' but Mayor Ed Holder says the city is capable of creating 3,000 new affordable housing units in the next five years as part of a plan to achieve functional zero homelessness in London.

That was the big promise in the mayor’s annual State of the City Address to the London Chamber of Commerce.

In 2020 the mayor said the state of the city was “strong” but just a month later the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken its toll on local governments everywhere.

Holder took a moment to pause to honour the 181 lives lost so far in the London-area, a number that is all but certain to continue to climb.

He also took a moment to recognize front-line workers such health-care professionals, essential service workers and first responders.

“You are not only front-line workers, you remain our last line of defence. You have held the line, against all odds and for that, our entire city offers you its deepest gratitude, and will remain forever in your debt,” said Holder.

While Holder acknowledged the ongoing threat of the virus, he turned his attention to a post COVID-19 world and recovery for the city, which is where his plan for homelessness fits in.

The mayor wants to see an end to ‘chronic homelessness’ and he looks to affordable housing units as a major part of that plan.

Holder said that at the current pace the city wouldn’t create 3,000 new units for another 20 years.

He wants to shrink that time down to five years and called on builders and developers to help get the job done.

Holder also highlighted that through the struggles, London remained one of only three communities to have more people employed today compared to levels in March 2020.

While London has seen seven straight months of job gains, the full of effect of the second wave of COVID-19 is not yet known, and the threat of a third wave looms large across the country and province.

Despite that threat Holder remained optimistic that London could rally in a post-COVID-19 world.

“Instead of getting back to the way things used to be, I’d rather we look to where things are going,” said Holder.