London wants to ‘reimagine’ public housing – demolishing some to rebuild

London-Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) says it wants to ‘reimagine’ its public housing community on Southdale Road East by tearing down old units and replacing them with new ones, but residents say it’s hard to reimagine their community while their basic needs still aren’t being met.

On Friday, LMCH kicked off “Reimagine Southdale”, the public face of its neighborhood redevelopment campaign, with a community resource fair where residents could ask questions, connect with community resources and meet with public housing officials across the street. to face, including Paul Chisholm, the new CEO of the public housing company.

“We are here today to hear from the community, the children, the families about what kind of community partnerships they want to see here, what services they like and how we can maybe improve what we are doing for them. .”

The $25 million plan includes bulldozing a number of the 50-year-old community’s 166 three- and four-bedroom townhouses to make way for a 90-unit low-rise apartment, slated to begin construction in 2023.

The event seemed uncrowded

Chisholm said the new building will address some of the accessibility issues with existing units and will include community space on the ground floor to accommodate functions and host community programming.

Children play on the grass between rows of townhouses on Southdale Road East. The London-Middlesex Community Housing Corporation says it is seeking input on how to “reimagine” the community. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Aside from neighborhood kids enjoying free snacks and a chance to meet the town’s fire crews, the event seemed to be sparsely attended by the hundreds of residents who live in the Southdale public housing community. East Road.

CBC News spoke to six residents who did not want their names published due to the stigma associated with living in such a community.

Residents don’t want to engage in housing because it’s usually under negative conditions.-Misty Murphy

Many said they struggled to reimagine their community, especially when the LMHC failed to meet their basic needs, such as concerns about drug use, basic property upkeep, and people living illegally in units.

“Residents don’t want to engage in housing because it’s usually in negative conditions,” said Misty Murphy, whose sole source of income is the Ontario Disability Support Program.

“The only time we hear from them is when they want to evict us or there’s a problem,” she said, adding that her townhouse is one of the units which must be demolished to make way for a new building.

“Our unit is ready to be torn down. I’m worried because in July we’re supposed to be out.”

Murphy said she is still awaiting news from the housing company about her next home and has so far only seen one unit: a moldy flat on Limberlost in the White Hills area. .

“They put me in a unit, but there’s a lack of communication about when he’s available, that sort of thing, so it leaves a lot of stress and worry on my plate.”

Praise from a resident for the new CEO

Murphy said she doubts the LMHC can reinvigorate the neighborhood because the way it handled a past pest infestation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced her and her son to throw their oven and refrigerator, and had them live without coolers for most of the year.

A little girl stands next to her mother on the doorstep of her family’s townhouse at 1057 Southdale Road East in London, Ontario. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

“We spent eight months without electricity in our kitchen and were operating with coolers. Thank goodness for the chaplaincy as they helped deliver all kinds of meals to us as we had no functioning kitchen.”

“It was horrible. I was in a hotel for a week.”

Still, looking to the future, Murphy said at least the LMHC was doing something positive. She said that in the 17 years she has lived in the Southdale Community Housing Project, she has never heard of the LMHC asking residents for anything.

“It’s nice that they’re finally doing something positive with Reimagine Southdale and reaching out to the community and asking them what kind of partners they want,” she said. “It’s a positive note from housing.”

“They could turn over a new leaf with their new CEO, but there still have to be bigger changes.”