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Mayor says city needs more authority over social housing

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Might be time to renegotiate the Sarnia Lambton Act

Cathy Dobson

Mayor Mike Bradley waded into sensitive political territory Tuesday, saying it’s time for Lambton County to relinquish at least some responsibility for social housing and give it to the city.

“The city needs better input on housing and homelessness issues,” Bradley said at an address to the Rotary Club of Sarnia.

He said that will mean renegotiating the Sarnia Lambton Act, which was hammered out in 1989 and hasn’t seen much change since. The Act divides responsibilities between the city and the county.

Social housing is a Lambton County responsibility, which means the planning, building and operation of affordable housing units is the county’s jurisdiction. While Sarnia is where most of the units are needed and where homelessness has become a visible problem, it’s county government that holds the purse strings, Bradley said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley speaks to members of the Rotary Club of Sarnia at the Dante Club (Cathy Dobson photo)

The Act expires every five years and, so far, has been renewed without discussion. But Bradley hopes that’s about to change. Renegotiation is necessary so the city has more authority over how many affordable units are built here, he said.

“I think this time we have to. It will be up to city council whether they want to go down that road or not, and there may be some who don’t feel we need to. We’ll have to see,” Bradley said.

He said city council’s decision on Monday to donate a downtown parking lot to the county for an affordable housing project, demonstrates the city can be innovative. It also reflects the council’s commitment to tackling Sarnia’s critical housing shortage and homelessness, Bradley said.

“I have to say (this group of Rotarians) really forced the issue because now the city has given the land and now we turn to the county to see what they’re going to do with it.
“The onus is now on the county,” he said. “You’ve got land. You’ve got some really committed people…let’s make it happen.”

It was Sarnia Rotarians who requested that council declare a parking lot on Victoria Street surplus and gift it to the county specifically for affordable housing.

“The county said it didn’t have any land for affordable housing. Now it does,” Bradley said.

“I’m hoping the county is going to say, yes, now we’re going to lead this project.”

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