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September 19, 2017

Career change results in affordable housing for Waterloo Region

When Dan Driedger was building his career in advanced manufacturing, he didn’t anticipate replacing production schedules with construction schedules to create affordable housing.

He was well paid. He enjoyed his career. But as he approached the halfway mark of his working life, Dan sensed it was time for a change.

“I knew I was getting ready to do something different. I just didn’t know what it was,” he says. “I just couldn’t see myself there for another 20 years.”

Nine years ago, Dan took a significant pay cut to take on a fundraising role with the Mennonite Central Committee. This eventually led to an opportunity to become the executive director of MennoHomes, an affordable housing developer in Waterloo Region.

“It’s a job that connected with me,” he says.

In August, MennoHomes’ latest affordable housing development opened in Elmira, Ontario, a community of about 10,000 people located 15 kilometres north of Waterloo.

The development is the 11th for MennoHomes and includes a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units. Dan oversaw the project and finds it satisfying to see residents moving into the development. “This is a project that meets our community’s needs,” he explains.

As to his own career, he hasn’t looked back. The executive director role suits him well — it’s full of variety and opportunities to serve his community. Dan is as happy greeting new tenants as he is helping fix a defective smoke alarm.

The Elmira project brings the total MennoHomes portfolio to 105 units in Waterloo Region. But, Dan notes, there is much work left to do.

“We haven’t solved housing,” he says matter-of-factly.

MennoHomes is currently searching for more land for additional affordable housing. When they find the right location, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Dan will be there from sod turning to move-in day and everything in between.

This project received initial funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Ontario Ministry of Housing through the Canada–Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement. It was also made possible thanks to funding from the Region of Waterloo.