Often when we think of homelessness, we picture someone asleep on a city sidewalk, or a tent city in an urban park. We don’t usually think of a small country town, yet rural homelessness is a growing issue in Wilmot Township.
The price of housing has skyrocketed there, as in every corner of Ontario. Yet, rural areas don’t have access to the same resources as larger, urban centres. However, in Wilmot Township, a group of concerned community members have come together to form Love Your Neighbour Communities (LYNC), an organization committed to creating beautiful spaces where intergenerational communities will thrive. And they are starting with the New Hamburg Mill.
The New Hamburg Mill is being transformed into the Mill Block Community, a mixed-income, intergenerational community located in the heart of New Hamburg. It’s an historic property, built in 1905, being transformed to provide a modern-day solution to an increasing community problem. According to Boris Emmanuel, Executive Director of LYNC, “We aren’t just building an apartment building, we are building a community.” The Mill Block Community will include 30 apartment units along with commercial space, social services supports and even a commercial kitchen for community use. It will also provide space for the Interfaith Counselling Centre, serving residents of the Mill Block Community as well as folks from the greater Wilmot Township.
This project was funded by donations, including support from Kindred Credit Union, and an initiative called Impact Funding – when community members provide loans directly to a project. Many of those who have provided the impact funding have committed to forgiving the interest on the loan, or the loan itself, once LYNC receives charitable status. Kindred Credit Union is honoured to partner with LYNC by providing a mortgage as part of our Affordable Housing GICs and Loans.
In October 2022, Kindred Credit Union launched the Affordable Housing GICs and Loans, in partnership with the Waterloo Region Community Foundation (WRCF). The goal of the Affordable Housing GICs and Loans is to provide long-term, permanent affordable housing. The new Affordable Housing GICs allow depositors to invest their money knowing that it is tied to a lending solution that aims to provide affordable housing.
According to Boris Emmanuel, demand is so high that, “we already have a waiting list for our waiting list.” LYNC hopes to have residents living in the Mill Block Community by September 2024, with the full project completed by February 2025. And they are already looking to the future and how to expand their reach even further with additional properties. For now, the hope is the Mill Block Community will breathe new life into both the New Hamburg Mill and the surrounding community, while addressing the increasing need for affordable housing in rural areas.