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A non-committal donation of $50,000 from Rice Development Corp. will contribute to a housing reserve fund set up by the city last fall to help create affordable housing in Saugeen Shores, the fastest growing community in Bruce County which has a rental vacancy rate of zero %. rate and an average home price last month of $759.42.

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Before the official check presentation ceremony on April 20 in City Council Chambers, company co-owner Rod Rice said he was there to fulfill a “responsibility” for Rice Development Corp. in an attempt to address the lack of affordable housing.

“We’ve worked for a long time to get affordable housing here in the city, so this contribution is just a reflection of that commitment on our part to play a part in solving the problem of affordable housing,” Rice said, adding that ‘they put no conditions on the $50,000 donation and trust the City to use the money as it sees fit.
Rice began construction on her Westlinks neighborhood on the east side of Port Elgin in 2017 after purchasing the adjacent Piper’s Glen golf course.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau, called Rice Development Corp. as a valued partner and big supporter of the city, and said the $50,000 is another example of the builder’s commitment to helping build affordable/accessible housing, including in its Westlinks neighborhood next to the land of Piper’s Glen golf course.

While the mayor said there are “exciting plans” for affordable/achievable housing in the Westlinks subdivision, after the presentation Rice would only say they have plans.
“We’ve had apartments zoned for some time, but we’ve had difficulty getting affordable housing in that format, so we’re looking at alternatives, but one day we’ll build apartments there,” Rice said, adding they hope to submit plans for an affordable/feasible project to Westlinks this year.

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The City’s Housing Reserve Fund allows developers to contribute up to five percent of the Development Charge (DC) payable for a development to the fund to support housing initiatives. Asked how the $50,000 could be spent, Mayor Charbonneau said that now that they have funds, council needs to come up with a specific policy to make the best use of it.
“We could look to help build affordable housing through municipal properties and partner with groups like Habitat for Humanity,” Charbonneau said, adding that they could also partner with Bruce County to another housing project like Wellington Street in Port Elgin, and they need a pool of funding available to make the projects possible.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the affordable/accessible housing problem, Charbonneau said, adding that partnerships with local developers will play a role, but they also need rent subsidies and rental units built with the CMHC funding.

“We need truly affordable housing built by organizations like the Bruce County Housing Organization to serve those at the bottom of the socio-economic stratum…and hopefully we can overcome this housing crisis we are facing” , said the mayor.

Rod Rice, (right) vice president of Rice Development Corp., prepared to sign a ceremonial check for $50,000 to present to Mayor Luke Charbonneau for the city’s Housing Reserve Fund to help help create affordable housing policies and initiatives, in the council chamber April 20. [Frances Learment]