Things are looking rosy for Project Zoo, a 42-unit co-op housing project for young parents. Barring bureaucratic snags, it may be the first of seven social housing projects at Benny Farm to open its doors next year.
"It’s moving ahead really fast, it’s really super-exciting," says Project Zoo vice-president Angela Campeau. "We’ve been working on this since September 2000," Campeau says. "We’re going to have a big party, a big celebration."
The project came about when members of Head & Hands Young Parents’ Program – a group of parents under 24 years old – were having trouble finding decent and affordable housing and decided to do something about it. Project Zoo membership has been expanded to include young parents under 34 years old and their children.
"We’re giving young parents an opportunity to save money," says Campeau. Of the 42 units in a renovated existing building and another new two-storey building, 50 per cent are earmarked as three-bedroom, 25 per cent as two-bedroom, and 25 per cent as four-bedroom.
Campeau says Canada Lands has designated a building for Project Zoo, and the project has hired an architect as well as set up a selection committee to choose applicants. The main roadblock? "It’s just a matter of waiting for the funding," she says.
Funding must be approved by the city department that handles social housing projects, and the process can be complicated. Final approval can’t happen until plans for Benny Farm go through municipal public hearings this fall. At press time the city still hadn’t chosen a date for the hearings. And the city’s promises that social housing at Benny Farm will be ready for next July may be unrealistic, says Martin Bazinet, a community organizer with the NDG Community Council.
"The mayor himself said there will be 80 units ready for July 1 but it might not be feasible because of the timeline," says Bazinet, noting that the city dragged its feet on Benny Farm earlier this year.
Parents under 34 interested in becoming members of Project Zoo can call 481-0277 for an application.