Jeff Green | Jun 18, 2015

URCA is an acronym that stands for United, Roman Catholic, Anglican in recognition of the three churches in the Village of Flinton that worked collectively to establish low cost housing for residents of Kaladar/ Barrie Township who needed it.

It's no coincidence that the project, which was needed in the North of 7 region back in the late 1980s as much as it is today because of economic and social conditions, ended up happening in Flinton. If it was left to bureaucrats to decide, the project would have undoubtedly been built on Hwy. 41 in Kaladar, Northbrook or Cloyne. Who would build social housing away from the transportation and economic corridor that is the lifeblood of the region?

It is partly the three churches in Flinton that made the difference, partly the close-knit nature of the community and partly the Freeburns, Rieta and Art. They ran the store in town, and got involved in the project in 1987. The first thing that needed to be done was to survey the need for housing, and Art spearheaded a door-to-door survey so everyone in town was contacted.

In the August 25, 1987 edition of the North Frontenac News, the headline announced “Flinton Housing Proposal Accepted” and the lead paragraph said, “On Monday, August 17, a housing corporation in Flinton received confirmation that its preliminary proposal had been accepted by the Ministry of Housing.”

8,700 proposals had been submitted by Ontario communities for funding, which only a small number received.

The optimistic committee, of which Art Freeburn was chair, expected to begin construction on 30 units of seniors' housing in short order, with the expectation that the project should be in its completion stages in 1988.

It did not happen like that. After dealing with government delays that put off the project time and time again, things came to a head about five years later. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultants, architects, well drilling, and lawyers, the government was on the verge of cutting loose from the project.

That was when Art Freeburn made his most important contribution. Furious that all his and the community's efforts were about to come to nothing, he demanded and received a meeting with government officials in Ottawa. He came home that evening with a promise that he could proceed with 16 units. But then he had more work to do convince a reluctant community that the units would be a mix of seniors' and family dwellings, when the community had all along been adamant that only seniors' housing be built.

Knowing that the government was not going to back down, Freeburn told the community that both kinds of housing were going to built, and that is what happened.

The project was completed in the mid 1990s, and Art Freeburn remained as Chair on the URCA Board of Directors until his death in 2007. A memorial to him is featured in the URCA office.

The current Board Chair of URCA, Linda Hume, took on the role at the urging of Art Freeburn.

“His greatest concern was that URCA continue to be governed by the people of Flinton,” said Linda Hume. She was interviewed at the URCA office as she was preparing for this year's AGM along with property manager Larry Pick and board member Christa Sheridan.

“He felt that if local interest waned the units would be taken over by the County of Lennox and Addington and they might start to deteriorate if that happens,” she said.

Larry Pick has been the property manager at URCA for a number of years.

“We have a very good relationship with the County staff who manage our waiting list and provide funding for us,” he said, “and they appreciate the need and value of local oversight.”

“We really need to make sure that we have a strong membership in our organisation,” said Linda Hume, “and we hope to get a good showing at our AGM this year to increase those numbers. The business end of the meeting takes 15 minutes and then there is a potluck. All people have to do is show up and register as members. It is not a big commitment but it will give us more to work with,” Linda Hume added.

With statistics showing that there are 20,000 low income people in Lennox and Addington according to the 2013 sector, agencies like URCA will be more and more important, especially north of 7, in the coming years.

“We hope for a good turnout on June 24,” said Linda Hume, “it should be a good night for a BBQ.”

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