Province invests big in county services

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini dropped into the Northumberland County building Wednesday to announce that more than $5-million will be invested in services provided throughout Northumberland County.

This breaks down to $4,958,960 as a one-time investment to streamline and improve the efficiency of small and rural municipalities and $1,809,026 as part of the new Community Housing Renewal Strategy to increase access to safe, affordable housing.

In the case of the larger amount, Piccini said, support in finding ways to improve service delivery and efficiency is being extended to 405 small and rural Ontario municipalities.

Larger municipalities have the tax base and other resources to find efficiencies more easily than smaller municipalities, he said. This grant helps even the playing field.

It is also a discretionary grant to be spent according to the priorities identified within each municipality. This might mean anything from the development of shared-service agreements and IT solutions to capital investments.

The funding breaks down to $725,000 for the County of Northumberland, $617,084 for the Township of Hamilton, $576,742 for the Township of Alnwick-Haldimand, $564,114 for the Township of Cramahe, and $619,005 apiece for the Town of Cobourg and the municipalities of Port Hope, Brighton and Trent Hills.

This amounts to a big boost to municipalities that strive to deliver value to residents, Warden John Logel said, and reinforces the county's commitment to efficiency and continuous improvement.

Logel also liked the flexibility and discretionary element that he said will result in targeted enhancements that can deliver the greatest value to the taxpayer.

“The funding announcement today will create new opportunities for all of us to work together to create a strong and vibrant Northumberland.”

The housing grant also breaks down further - $32,100 for investment in affordable housing, $1,054,654 through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, $697,000 under the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative and $24,672 from the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative.

“We know, in this community, we need affordable housing,” Piccini said.

“We need to increase the housing supply, and the county is an important partner in making housing affordable for the next generation, but also affordable for those who need it most.”

Even apart from funding, Piccini shared a list of ways the province's new Community Housing Renewal Strategy is improving the community-housing picture across the province.

  • It removes existing penalties for working more hours or attending school to encourage tenants to seek employment and educational opportunies.

  • It makes rent more predictable by simplifying rent calculations.

  • It helps would-be tenants on a waiting list prioritize their choices, with service managers given additional flexibility to make exceptions and allow for extenuating circumstances.

  • It protects tenants who receive child-support payments by ensuring these do not affect their rent.

  • It makes housing available for those most truly in need by requiring and asset test.

  • It makes housing safer by giving housing providers the means to turn away tenants who have been evicted for criminal activity.

Logel expressed confidence the new funding will sustain and grow community housing - “quality affordable housing that is the foundation of good health, prosperity and quality of life.

“Northumberland does continue to contend with the realities of a complex urbal/rural environment – rising housing prices and an extremely low vacancy rate,” Logel continued.

“This is why the county is focused on a variety of programs to address the needs across the housing continuum. The funding announcement today will reinforce these efforts to ensure Northumberland residents have access to safe, affordable housing.”