Partnership provides ‘exciting opportunity’ to address affordable housing

MennoHomes to work with Mennonite Disaster Service on renovation project

January 13, 2021 | News | Volume 25 Issue 2
Janet Bauman | Eastern Canada Correspondent
Kitchener, Ont.
This house, at 24 Mill Street in Kitchener, Ont., was acquired by MennoHomes from Waterloo Region in a lottery and will be renovated by Mennonite Disaster Service in a unique partnership to create more affordable housing for families. (Photo courtesy of MennoHomes)

The need is great. Six thousand people wait for affordable housing in Waterloo Region. Local government is committed to creating 25,000 new housing units in the next five years, but Karen Redman, the regional chair, acknowledged in a Dec. 24, 2020, Kitchener Today article, “I don’t think we can possibly move fast enough . . . in order to do that, we need partners.”

Enter MennoHomes, a non-profit organization founded in 2001 to provide affordable housing to low-income households in Waterloo Region. It currently manages more than a hundred housing units, and is building phase one of a project that will eventually provide another 48 units with space for three partners and community groups.

MennoHomes was recently awarded a Kitchener property in a lottery give-away of three surplus properties owned by the region, near downtown Kitchener. The lottery was open to non-profit groups with experience in providing affordable housing, and the expertise and funds to continue operating the homes as affordable rental units for at least 25 years. 

MennoHomes acquired 24 Mill Street, a two-storey detached house well suited to a family, with three bedrooms and a yard. The other two houses went to the KW Urban Native Wigwam Project, a non-profit organization providing safe, affordable housing for Indigenous people on low or moderate income. 

But 24 Mill Street needs renovations. Enter Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), another non-profit organization that normally coordinates volunteers to do clean-up, repair and rebuilding work for people affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. MennoHomes will partner with MDS, which will coordinate volunteers to do the renovation work, donating time and labour. Materials will cost around $30,000.

MennoHomes “typically focuses on new construction,” says executive director Dan Driedger, while MDS has expertise in restoring a building in this condition. We “trust that it will be in good hands,” Driedger adds, calling it an “exciting opportunity to partner in a new way.”

Nick Hamm, unit chair of MDS Ontario, says “With COVID and restrictions on travelling, we have volunteers anxious to engage.” This project allows MDS to “respond locally” under the current restricted way of doing things.

MennoHomes gets possession at the end of January, and MDS hopes to start renovations right away. It is anticipated a family could move in by June.

In an interview in the same Kitchener Today article, Driedger named partnerships as valuable in solving the affordable housing gap. 

Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Eastern Canada? Send it to Janet Bauman at ec@canadianmennonite.org.

This house, at 24 Mill Street in Kitchener, Ont., was acquired by MennoHomes from Waterloo Region in a lottery and will be renovated by Mennonite Disaster Service in a unique partnership to create more affordable housing for families. (Photo courtesy of MennoHomes)

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