Last Night Council held a Public Planning meeting. These meetings are an important first step in the planning process and are a great opportunity to hear from residents and the community at large about proposed applications for development.
On the agenda last night were two applications; however, as the first item generated considerable discussion the second application was deferred to another meeting.
With respect to the first item, the proposed Men’s Emergency and transitional housing on Yonge St., Council heard presentations from Town Staff, YRP, the proponents – York Region as well as many residents.
The Public Planning meeting process affords Council one of three options when considering a recommendation regarding an application: Council could deny the application outright, defer to another public planning meeting or move it forward to General Committee.
Following the very lengthy discussion, Council decided that the best option before us was to have another Public Planning meeting as it will allow for all of us, the Region (applicant) the residents and Council to work together to hopefully find a solution; that will address the concerns of the residents while similarly addressing the need for the development of supportive housing in our community. This passed unanimously…
For those that were unable to attend the meeting, here are my comments on the application…
“I want to thank not only Town and Regional staff for their presentations but also the residents who came forward this evening and those that reached out to myself or members of council in person or via email to express their concerns regarding the proposed transitional housing facility and the many who have similarly reached out to myself or members of Council, in support of this proposal.
I will keep my comments brief.
The application before council this evening asks us to consider whether we have sufficient information to decide if the proposed location for an emergency shelter and transitional housing is the right one – for both the people it is meant to serve and for the residents and homeowners in proximity to it.
Before I speak to my own questions and concerns with the location of the proposed facility, I’d like to speak to the need for the facility.
We need more supportive housing in York Region. I have seen first hand the need in our community and that need is simply staggering. From skyrocketing rents to the dwindling or frankly non existent availability of rental units, housing affordability has reached crisis proportions – and it has had a devastating impact on those most vulnerable in our community. In the most recent I Count report – York Region’s report on homelessness, they state that “almost 22% of people reported being unable to pay rent or a mortgage as one of the reasons for their homelessness. This compared to just 14% in 2018”. That’s one in five homeless people are without a roof over their head because they can no longer afford one.
And that count only counts those that are visible. According to that same report, fully 80% of people who experience homelessness in Canada are not visible. And this Hidden homelessness leads to significant undercounting of homelessness.”
Which means that the need for emergency and transitional housing is far greater than the numbers reported.
There are people living rough, right now, in Aurora. People living in tents. People living in their cars. People living in bus shelters. And there are many more who are, “insecurely housed”, those that shuffle from place to place, sleeping with friends or acquaintances where ever possible.
Since the start of the pandemic, local support organizations such as Welcoming Arms have seen huge uptick in those that need their services including meal programs and assistance with accessing resources.
There is tremendous need in our community to provide support to those that are marginalized. And that need is growing.
So the question of whether this facility is needed is not a question at all. It most definitely is.
But is this the best location for it?
Is the proposed site the best location to meet the needs of those who requires supportive housing and the services provided within the facility, while also taking into consideration the concerns raised by our residents in proximity to the proposed facility.
Will residents that are in proximity to it feel safe? Will those that need to access its services feel safe?
Is it sufficiently close to accessible transit options?
Is it close enough to medical facilities for adequate access to care?
Is it close to other services that marginalized residents need to access?
What other locations in Aurora have been considered or could be considered for this facility that better address the security, accessibility, transit and other issues raised this evening?
I think – bottom line – the question is – Is this the best location? Or is it the most expedient option?
There are many questions that both council and the public have put forward tonight that require answers before we can truly feel confident in saying that this is the best location.
With that in mind, I would prefer to support this being brought back to a future public planning meeting, as Council has asked for… with the expectation that the questions and concerns raised this evening are addressed.”
WATCH THE ENTIRE MEETING HERE