Affordable housing in London got a boost Monday with 50 new units announced just south of the city’s core, thanks to a $4.4 million federal government investment.

It’s affordable housing that may help address the city’s most critical need, geared-to-income homes, said Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the federal housing minister, in London for the announcement.

At about the same time the new apartment at 770 Whetter Ave is finished later this year, the Canada Housing Benefit will offer subsidies on affordable units, to address the geared-to-income housing crisis.

“As this comes on line, the Canada Housing Benefit will arrive. It offers subsidies to individuals to pay rent. The way we are making affordable housing subsidized housing is we attach subsidies,” said Vaughan.

“The National Housing Strategy layers support for the housing sector.”

The federal government announced $4.4 million in loans  from its national housing strategy for the 54-unit apartment under construction on Whetter Avenue, of which 50 will be affordable units.

The $11-million build also received $2 million in federal grants, $2 million in provincial grants and $600,000 in city grants, said Jim Foote, treasurer with Homes Unlimited, the non-profit housing agency in the city, building the units.

“We are very proud of what we created. These units will go to people of modest means  . . . This is really the National Housing Strategy at work,” said Foote.

The agency is actively looking for other sites across the city, he said. It has both affordable and geared-to-income homes in its portfolio.

“We will continue to build,” he said.

London has about 3,500 families on a waiting list for geared-to-income housing.

Affordable housing tenants pay about 90 per cent of average market rents. With rent geared to income, a single person on social assistance will pay 30 per cent of their monthly income for rent.

London has 5,700 geared-to-income homes in the city, 3,000 of which are with the London and Middlesex Housing Corp. The city’s stock of geared-to-income housing also needs $230 million to $400 million in upgrades and repairs.

Homes Unlimited has 445 housing units across the city at seven different locations, and the Whetter Avenue build will bring them close to 500, said Foote.

“Every Canadian should have a home they can afford, and the only way we can do that is by supporting non-profits,” said Judith Bunder, affordable housing specialist with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

CMHC also announced Monday $2.9 million in national housing strategy loans for Blossom Park, an $8-million, 34-unit affordable housing project in Woodstock, built by Indwell, another non-profit housing agency.

“Everyone deserves choice. That is dignity. It is quality of life,” said Binder.

Southside Construction is building the Whetter Avenue apartment, scheduled to hit the market later this year. Sixteen of the units will be available to people with accessibility issues.

The national housing strategy provides support for non-profit agencies  in communities to provide social housing. The loan portion is paid back during a long amortization at lower interest rate of 2.5 per cent.

The federal government is investing $40 billion in the national housing strategy during 10 years.

“There is an inherent connection between dignity and housing. We have to make sure Londoners in need have a roof over their head,” said London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.

“There is evidence that housing helps social ills, from mental health challenges to policing to hospitals. It is an important part of the answer.”

The former Ontario Conservative government of Mike Harris downloaded housing to municipalities in the 1990s and funding has not kept pace with the need, said housing advocates.

The Canada Housing Benefit, an $8.2 billion investment in rent subsidies, is expected to come online early in 2020.