George St. United Church, Peterborough, Chemong Village , AOTS Community Homes Inc.
Chemong Village is located at1025 Chemong road. It is a beautiful housing project of 60 units arranged in a community-like setting. The project was begun in the late 1980s by the AOTS men's club who responded to the need for affordable housing in Peterborough. They worked tirelessly to raise the resources required to secure the site and build homes that would house families in need of safe secure affordable housing.
The History of the Project:
It all started on a cold blustery night in February 1989. George St. AOTS Men's Club gathered in the basement of their church to hear the story of how some churches had responded to community need by sponsoring rental housing projects. Projects that allowed residents to pay rents that were related to their income. Though a spark was kindled, it required persistence to follow the continuing flame in the burning bush in order to translate this vision into real homes for families and individuals in Peterborough.
Though everyone knew there was a need for affordable housing, Governments who controlled and granted the allocation of subsidies, wanted sponsoring groups to show a specific need for their project. Information from local planning and social service agencies was gathered to get specific names of people who were actually in need. The club set up a booth in a local mall on successive Saturdays. Shoppers were asked to complete an " Expression of interest" form if they needed affordable housing. Over 200 did! If evangelism is carrying the good news to the market place, members of George St. Men's Club discovered contemporary evangelism.
Positive that their work would lead to a housing allocation from the Provincial Government, the club incorporated AOTS Community Homes, a non-profit housing corporation. They hired a development consultant to pursue their dream. Applications in 1989, 1990, and 1991 failed. Undeterred, they kept improving their application. A number of local agencies, such as the John Howard Society and the youth related organizations, were brought on board when it was discovered that many youth, alienated from their families, might benefit from secure housing which would assist them in getting on with their lives. A percentage of the proposed units were allocated to these youth with support services coming from the co-operating agencies.
The application for a housing project was successful in 1992. Even better, the City of Peterborough had a piece of surplus land that it was willing to sell for the project. Planning began, surveys and soil tests were completed. A zoning application was filed and a public meeting was called. Some opposition arose and the Peterborough City Council refused to re-zone the land. Despair! But, only for a day! Looking anew for a piece of land, the group linked up with a builder who was holding a prime piece of land for a condominium development. . Although deemed too expensive, tentative negotiations began. All the planning and design work and firm contracts had to be signed before year-end or the allocation would be lost. The Ministry Of Housing needed our final application before Christmas, because those who had to sign off on the project would be away between Christmas and New Years. Everything came together except that the project could not be built within the cost guidelines imposed by the Ministry Of Housing. Despite tough negotiations, agreement could not be reached with the builder. An at 8 P.M on December 23rd the project died. Perhaps the builder caught some of the meaning of Christmas. By December 28th he accepted our contract proposal and Ministry officials were brought back from holidays to sign off with their approval.
Construction began in the late spring of 1993. Three clusters of stacked townhouses were built to a total of twenty-eight, two, three and four bedroom units. Two units included designs to accommodate the physically disabled. A small three-story eleven unit apartment building with one bedroom units and a community center completed the project. Wonderfully located close to good shopping and other community amenities, the project has been praised for " curb appeal". The first residents moved in , in early 1994. The turmoil and exhilaration of construction soon gave way to the daily tasks of property management. The Board hired an experienced property manager to look after the day-to-day operations. An Operations Committee was struck to supervise. The Board majority is appointed by the George St. AOTS Men's Club, but has always strengthened itself with other representatives of the congregation. Financially, the project has always lived within approved budgets. Physically, the project maintains its look of newness and residents are proud to live there. Socially, thirty-nine families and individuals have affordable housing. Nobody, unless they have been there themselves, fully understands that affordable housing assists in family stability, better diets and a more hopeful future. Not all the youth are able to meet the challenge of independent living, nor are the social agencies that promised to support them. Shrinking social service dollars have forced most social agencies to curtail their outreach programs. Evictions have taken place due to unit damage and non-payment of rent. There is a great satisfaction in the one's who have settled in stable family arrangements and others who have gone on to post secondary education. If real evangelism is the proclamation of good news, Chemong Village, as the George Street AOTS Men's Club housing project is called, continues to burn brightly in the middle of Peterborough.
Now 15 years later the project fills an ever growing need for affordable housing and the commitment of George Street continues. Programs for the Chemong Village Community are supported by AOTS and the wider congregation with activities for children's and community events.
Harold G. Hubbell - President
William Gilbert - Vice President
Doris Neufeld - Secretary
Carolyn Porteous - Treasurer
Rev. Donald Nicholson