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The federal government announced new retrofitting funding in February.

There’s a catch, though…

The federal government is under pressure: our emissions are quickly climbing to pre-pandemic levels, and government needs to find ways to meet 2030 targets.  Retrofitting buildings is the obvious answer: in February they announced a new retrofit grant program, totalling $185 million, to be given out over the next four years. But there’s a catch: applications must be in by the 28 of April.

This sounds like an ideal opportunity for Avon Crest, Stratford’s first hospital, and we could learn how to make a good grant proposal from our neighbours in London. They are busy retrofitting the old Victoria Hospital’s buildings and land to be included in the largest affordable housing development in London’s history; half of the units will be rented at market rate, while the others will rent at 70 to 80 percent of average market rents across the city, and still others will rent at a rate affordable for a person on disability payments.

London’s plan is brilliant. A $1 million donation from the London Food bank will allow the project to include community kitchens, allowing a focus on food security and nutrition education. The plan is set to attract large donations, and the project has strong financial support from the City. Like Avon Crest, it is in the centre of town, and an ideal location for residences.

We could do this.

Time is short, but a nimble and inventive board of directors could come up with a workable grant proposal, bringing in sizeable financial support for retrofitting the old hospital. The historical value of Avon Crest would be an advantage, as the project would stand out in a list of grant applications. This could be a new beginning.

Unfortunately, the only plan for Avon Crest seems to be demolition; the hospital board’s call for demolition proposals ends March 14. They have no plans to sell the hospital, and no clear plans for what they will do with the vacant lot, except perhaps use it as parking.

The environmental arguments for retrofitting Avon Crest are powerful. We have carbon targets to meet, and demolishing Avon Crest would put a huge dent in our carbon budget. What will Stratford have to give up in order to repair this dent? It is the City’s responsibility to find out; this is why we hired a Climate Change Programs Manager. We must take this challenge seriously.

Then there is the problem of an environmental assessment. None has been done. Claims that demolition will have a negative environmental impact have gone unanswered. This is not something we should take on trust. The natural areas of that neighbourhood are of great value to the City. Our river flows into the Thames watershed. And people live there.

The Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance must take these arguments into consideration before making any final decision on Avon Crest. Of all people, they should be most aware of issues of public health, environmental safety, and financial accountability.

Save Avon Crest, a citizen group formed to support the rehabilitation of the hospital, has started a petition to let the HPHA know how residents feel about the hospital issue. Nearly 3,000 people have signed it. If you’d like to learn more about the Avon Crest project, there will be an information meeting at the Queen’s Inn at 7pm on March 16.

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