Premier McGuinty

OTTAWA — Premier Dalton McGuinty donned a mandatory hard hat on his birthday Thursday as he toured the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre’s construction site where affordable housing units for Armed Forces veterans and seniors are set to open in December.

McGuinty shook hands and chatted with construction workers and health centre officials, walking through the partially finished units in safety boots, a fluorescent orange vest and safety glasses.

The $5.4 million project, funded by the federal and provincial governments, has 139 apartments, including 45 units of affordable housing.

McGuinty said he was happy to be at the site, which is in the Alta Vista neighbourhood where he grew up. He thanked all involved with the project for making the housing units a “home away from home” for the many who will move in.

“The older our parents get the more you understand how important it is …,” he said.

McGuinty said his government plans to invest another $500 million to support affordable housing over the next five years, in addition to the $183 million invested in low-income housing units since 2009.

“I’ve got this theory about people, we’re all builders,” the premier said on the gravel before entering the building. “We want to know we’ve done something for somebody else, make a difference, and when you make a home for somebody else, that’s a pretty big difference.”

Housing projects like this one, he said, not only benefit veterans and seniors, but all taxpayers because they costs less than hospitalization or long-term care. The economy benefits too, because of all the jobs created in building the units, McGuinty said, nodding to the construction workers he had just met.

Perley Rideau foundation chair Ray Desjardins said the project is the first of its kind in Canada.

“For the first time ever, we have priority access for Canadian Forces veterans, not traditional war veterans,” Desjardins said. “It’s a really unique opportunity.”

“It’s a darn good idea and it’s so needed,” added Kenneth Dye, who sits on the Perley Rideau board of directors.

kchen@ottawacitizen.com

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