Volume 96, Issue 59
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

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Rally held to battle cuts to social housing

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

A rally was held behind London City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest a proposed municipal budget cut of $2 million to affordable social housing in the city.

City council held a meeting to discuss the budget of the Community and Protective Services Committee, under which social housing falls. The pending budget included a proposal to cut $2 million from housing.

The rally was organized by Action Family, a local advocacy group for social rights, as part of a kick-off for their new campaign, said spokesperson Jeremy McNaughton, adding the event marked the first campaign Action Family has embarked on since 2001's Tent City.

Demonstrators gathered around a banner reading "HOUSING NOW!" behind City Hall, banging on pots, pans and plastic drums.

"[The rally] is [meant] to put real pressure on the government to focus attention on the social housing crisis," McNaughton said, adding there has been no new construction of affordable housing in London for seven years.

"We want to keep focus on the issue," he said, adding there are more than 15,000 households in London who are in a position in which 50 per cent of their disposable income is spent on housing.

"[I am] out here to support the people," said Julie Glaser, speaking on behalf of the London Homeless Coalition.

"People want changes to affordable housing," she said, adding new sewers or new golf courses should not take priority over new housing.

"Affordable housing was not listed as a line item [in the budget]," Glaser said, adding those attending the rally hope to convince council to make it a line item, and keep the issue in the upcoming budget.

Demonstrators wore white buttons with a large "1%" printed on them, demonstrating the group's solution to the crisis.

"We're asking the government to commit one per cent of all tax revenue generated to the creation of affordable housing," Glaser said, adding this funding must come in conjuction with support for other social services, such as those for seniors, the disabled and the mentally ill.

Mary Tellier, a London resident, said she was at the rally because she felt citizens need to put their bodies where their mouths are.

"I think it's unacceptable that London has so many people that are homeless or on the verge [of being homeless]," she said.

Repeated attempts to contact members of London's city council were unsuccessful.

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