Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation moves ahead with new Executive Director

(Gazette file photo)



Treat Hull, President of the Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation, spoke to council this past Tuesday during the Regular Council Meeting to provide an update on the corporation’s newest success, hiring  Charles Dowdall as Executive Director. The corporation is a not for profit organization.

Since Hull last spoke to council in January, there have been two major developments within the corporation. Not only were they able to secure a well-qualified ED, but like the rest of us, the corporation’s progress has been affected by the pandemic.

Hull spoke of securing an E.D. as being a “major milestone”.

“This has been one of the the things that has given away our progress and recruiting an executive director has been one of our board’s top priorities since February,” he said. “A professional and thorough search was carried out with the help of Rob Leek, a retired Executive Recruiter.”

The hiring process involved both national and local advertising, Hull explained, and resulted in about 50 responses with two candidates being interviewed.

“The whole process was slowed, but not halted, by the pandemic,” Hull stated.

Dowdall began his career in commerical banking, a foundation that Hull asserts has equipped Dowdall with a good foundation of the financial side of developments. Since moving to the not for profit sector, Dowdall has experience working in the affordable housing field.

“He started his career in commercial banking, so he has a very good understanding of the financial side of development, but an important part of his career since moving to the not for profit sector has been in the field of affordable housing,” said Hull.

With regards to affordable housing, Hull noted that Dowdall has experience working for the second largest affordable housing corporation in North America.

“On the affordable housing front, he ran the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s housing operations,” explained Hull. “After Metro New York Housing Authority, Toronto Community Housing Corporation is the second largest affordable housing corporation in North America. So, this was a very significant.”

Hull noted that Dowdall is currently also Executive Director of Kingston Literacy and Skills, an agency much like Prince Edward Learning Centre.

Hull also noted that the pandemic has accelerated the goals of the affordable housing corporation.

“In the bigger picture, the pandemic will definitely intensify the affordable housing issues we’ve already experienced-certainly, in terms of incomes,” said Hull. “The board also established a COVID-19 response committee to see if there are any immediate actions we should be taking to help address the pandemic. The board’s conclusion was rather than attempting to find special programming, specifically for COVID-9, the most important thing we could do would be to accelerate our current plans, moving forward with our affordable housing programs.”

Hull also stated that the board had been made aware of social lenders who will, he added, heavily fund properties purchased to protect existing affordable housing.

“That’s something we’ll be investigating further,” said Hull.

In the meantime, in response to COVID-19, both the federal and provincial governments have significantly increased funding for affordable housing, with specific amounts for rural areas, according to Hull.

“We’re now well equipped to get on with our mission as a property developer. The pandemic will increase demand for affordable housing, but will also likely result in increased government funding,” stated Hull. “That timely arrival will mean that we’re in a good position to capture our share of affordable housing funding dollars, something we weren’t able to do in the past.”

Councillor Mike Harper asked Hull to elaborate on the concept of social lenders.

“I was encouraged by one of your points, that being that social lenders will heavily fund properties,” said Harper. “Could you elaborate for us?”

“There are social lenders whose focus is on preserving affordable housing rather than developing new housing and they will pull out funding to enable organizations to finance the entirety of the purchase for the protection of existing affordable housing,” stated Hull.

“This isn’t something you enter into lightly, but as soon as Dowdall comes on board, it’s something we’ll be investigating further,” Hull added.

Councillor Bill Roberts asked Hull what the concrete plans for the future are and when those plans might come to fruition.

“What concrete changes or impacts will this new Executive Director have on the work and mandate of the affordable housing corporation and when will we see that concrete impact and changes,” asked Roberts.

Hull stated that, in the past, what has kept them from progressing more quickly are two things- land and a qualified Executive Director.

“In my experience,and based on his references, Dowdall is what my dad would have called a ball of fire. He’s got a list of about 40 community stakeholders, including every member of council,” said Hull.” I anticipate as soon as he’s on board, if not before, he’ll be in touch with individual members of council in order to get your views and feedback.”

Hull added that the corporation does not have existing facilities and so, they are a property developer facing the same obstacles any developer would.

“We’re a property developer-in the future we could be an operator- but the development of affordable housing is just as complicated as somebody putting in a subdivision. The scale might be smaller, but all the same issues are confronted as would confront a commercial developer, plus all the specifics of various government funding programs for affordable housing.”

Hull stated that Dowdall would be valuable in this regard, having extensive contacts with funders on the federal and provincial levels.

“If nothing else, that will enable us to be on the front ranks for any new monies in rural Ontario,” he said.