As the second phase of the Britannia Street housing project comes to a close, many Stratford residents are still left wondering where affordable housing stands. Regional affordable housing numbers are at record lows, and families are scrambling across the province to find affordable housing.
Previous to 2014, City Council had plans to sell the land on Britannia Street to housing developers when councillors in office at the time, like Kathy Vassilakos, played a crucial role in voicing the importance of the City of Stratford maintaining the property for affordable housing units. At the time, a set amount of provincial and Federal funding was available for investments to be used for these specific housing projects through the Affordable Housing fund.
Councillor Jo-Dee Burbatch recently took to Instagram with her thanks to Vassilakos last week for her part in the Britannia Street housing project, saying, “I’m happy to share that phase 2 of the Britania St Housing Project is almost complete! In total, this will add 55 affordable housing units to our city. Big shout out to my former colleague Kathy Vassilakos for her leadership on this project.”
During her time on the council, Vassilakos stepped in and voiced opinions about keeping the property for housing. She told The Stratford Times, “Council was always talking about needing to do something about housing and affordable housing in Stratford. We had a 10-year housing plan that requires some thought, and I figured this was a great opportunity.”
Stratford City Council has been praised for voicing their concerns about affordable housing in Stratford, and Vassilakos was the one who spearheaded this project. She said, “I'm really proud of the fact that through all of the musing going on, I'm the one who said, let's figure out how to make this happen.”
The Britania St. location finished its initial phase in 2018 when new residents started moving in, and the second phase has just been completed. Vassilakos noted, “[The Britania St location] is central; it's on a bus line; it's close to schools; it is close to active transportation; it has everything you want. It was kind of like a perfect storm for affordable housing.”
Social and economic pressures, such as inflation and supply chain challenges, still contribute to rising housing development costs. There are currently 211,419 families on the waitlist for social housing in Ontario, according to a recent study by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
The housing affordability crisis also significantly impacts businesses' ability to attract and retain employees, exacerbating challenges associated with ongoing labour shortages, an aging workforce, and the housing crisis itself in Stratford and across the rest of the province.
Vassilakos points out the important part the city of Stratford played in the project and graciously noted, “The city of Stratford deserves all the credit; they made this happen, but I’m glad and honoured that I got to be a big part of it.”
Amanda Modaragamage, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times