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County council set to vote on affordable housing priority list

'This new master plan will provide a more strategic and long-term approach to affordable housing development,' staffer says in report to council
2020-03-11 County JO-001
The County of Simcoe council chambers are shown in a file photo. | Jessica Owen/Village Media

Members of Simcoe County council will be looking into the future tomorrow as they vote on a staff recommendation ranking the region’s affordable housing projects for the next decade, including two projects in Barrie.

Council will discuss the Simcoe County Housing Corporation Affordable Housing Master Plan at its May 28 meeting, which is described as a plan to “systematically plan where and what type of Simcoe County Housing Corporation (SCHC) development projects are to be built based on demand, needs, financial implications and risk management”. 

“The affordable housing master plan is a long-term, capital infrastructure plan to guide, sustain and expand the county’s affordable housing system, leveraging existing assets and new partnership opportunities to allow the Simcoe County Housing Corporation to continue to contribute good-quality housing and enhance the county’s eligibility for potential provincial and federal funding,” Rachelle Hamelin, program supervisor for housing development, wrote in the report.

Topping the recommended priority list is the 151-unit affordable housing project slated to be built at 20 Rose St., construction for which is scheduled to get underway this year.

Next in line is a 22-unit SCHC intensification project in Midland, followed by a 30-unit project at 29 and 45 Birch St., in Collingwood.

A second Barrie project has made the top-five priority list, with 15 temporary modular units set to be constructed at 65 Vespra St., 70 and 72 Victoria St.

A 100-unit facility at 810 Bay St./837 Montreal St. in Midland, set to get underway in 2025, rounds out the top five projects prioritized by staff in the report.

The plan, stated Hamelin, serves as a 10-year “implementation and development framework to preserve and increase the SCHC’s housing portfolio and address community needs."

“Building on the work of the county’s Long-term Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy and in alignment with its long-term financial plan, this new master plan will provide a more strategic and long-term approach to affordable housing development,” she wrote. 

“The SCHC master plan is a long-term capital infrastructure plan to guide, expand and sustain the SCHC’s affordable housing portfolio through repair, new construction, support and partnership opportunities," Hamelin added. 

The mixed-income approach, she noted, is in alignment with the county’s draft Housing Attainable Supply Action Plan, which is intended to address market housing supply for moderate-income households. It also includes background information about the diversification of the tenant population living in SCHC communities, affordable housing buildings, and a range of other rental programs. 

“It identifies opportunities to increase affordable housing, preserve the existing SCHC portfolio and enhance community needs," Hamelin stated in her report. "A comprehensive inventory of the SCHC housing portfolio was completed to inform decision-making regarding existing opportunities for development and preservation/rehabilitation projects, as well as to identify housing gaps, needs, diversification and partnership opportunities.

"Building on opportunities for intensification of currently owned SCHC assets reduces capital costs, negating the need for costly property purchases," she added. 

Twenty-nine SCHC-owned, municipal, non-profit and private sites were identified and evaluated for development potential, she says in the report, noting the top-scoring sites were then "triaged" according to staffing resources, probabilities and known constraints. 

Staff also undertook a triage approach to all SCHC sites to narrow down a list of properties that would be appropriate for regeneration largely based on their conditions, property size and levels of investment that would be required to maintain those sites in a state of good repair, Hamelin said.

This review resulted in 14 properties prioritized as suitable for affordable and supportive housing, development in a phased approach over 10 years and resulting in 1,022 new affordable housing units, as well as approximately 64 replacement units already approved for the Rose Street development in Barrie.

“Included in the plan’s prioritization table are proposed development projects partnering with community housing providers and one private developer that has offered to accommodate affordable housing buildings on their underutilized property parcels," Hamelin said in the report. 

When complete, the master plan is expected to result in approximately 1,091 new housing units, including 64 replacement rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units and 15 temporary supportive units, at an estimated total project cost of approximately $861 million. 

“It is important to note that the county does not exclusively incur these costs," Hamelin said. "In some partnership opportunities, both capital and operating funds are proposed to be part of the collaboration.

"The pipeline of identified development projects enhances the county’s readiness to respond to rapid housing funding announcements that often require shovel-ready proposals and accelerated construction periods," she added. "Should SCHC be offered opportune development prospects that are currently unknown, staff recommends flexibility in the proposed project sequence.”

Council is scheduled to vote on the recommendation at Tuesday's meeting.