ANTIGONISH: Colleen Cameron becomes emotional talking about finally reaching this extraordinary day.
The Chair of the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS) said it’s absolutely phenomenal and unbelievable to be officially opening Phase 2 of Riverside Estates, a multi-family complex on Hope Lane in Antigonish.
“It’s actually very emotional to be here and to see this, to be here in this community room and that it has actually happened,” Cameron said. “There were days we just never thought we’d ever get here, so to be here today, and to see it’s made such a huge difference – it’s amazing.”
Cameron remembers the day when the AAHS were told they wouldn’t be able to do it, that they wouldn’t be able to raise the money because it was something people just didn’t think there was a need for in the community.
The organization raised 66 per cent of their $250,000 goal in 10-months, and with many different groups fundraising in the community at once, she said it truly speaks about the heart of the community.
“We were able to take that leap and make a chance because the Sisters of St. Martha’s supported us, the town supported us, and [all three] levels of government supported us,” Cameron said. “We went on faith. It was a whole community effort; it takes a village to build a community.”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said the town is fortunate to benefit from passionate, caring residents with big hearts.
“Without their passion and their devotion, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “Affordable housing is very important and because it’s at the local level it’s becoming more and more evident the municipal government has to do what they can.”
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser said it has been a remarkable experience to see the project come to fruition after being started by a handful of people.
“The fact is the cost of addressing homelessness and housing needs is a lot less than the cost of ignoring them,” he said. “It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to see how inaccessible our world we live in is.”
Phase 2 of the project offered 10 new affordable rental units and a community room, adding to the four units offered in Phase 1, which opened in March 2017. The new community room was made possible in large part by the Aviva Community Fund, which was awarded to AAHS last year.
Cameron said the 14 units are currently home to 25 people, ranging in age from four to 74. Five residents are children, six are living with disabilities, and three homes are led by single female parents.
When affordable housing is available, Cameron said it has such an impact in so many different ways.
“In the first four units we had a woman and her adult son, who has disabilities, living there. Because she was in affordable housing, she was able to finish her education and get a job that’s four-times more pay,” she said. “She’s moved out, he’s connected to services in the community and living on his own now, with us, with the support. And that to me is poverty reduction.”
The AAHS envisions having sufficient affordable, sustainable, environmentally efficient, community-supported housing available for the residents of Antigonish town and county. Riverside Estates is its first initiative.
For more information, visit their Web site: www.antigonishaffordablehousing.ca.