‘I believe in a helping hand, but I don’t want it to be a lifetime gift,’ adviser says while questioning proposal
With the construction of a new 50-unit affordable housing complex on the horizon in Bradford West Gwillimbury, councilors will be considering a lower cost alternative in the near future.
WOW Living is looking to place four winterized trailers on the property of Bradford Community Church to serve as affordable housing. Costs associated with the entire project are estimated at $500,000, approximately the cost per building unit of the complex at Simoce Road and Marshview Boulevard.
WOW Living chief executive Jodi Greenstreet was before council at a public meeting on July 19 asking for a temporary zoning bylaw change to allow the project to go ahead. The church, located at 2465 line 9, is currently zoned for institutional purposes. Although this zoning is broad, it does not currently allow for temporary rental housing to be placed on the site.
Still, it temporarily housed residents displaced from 114 Holland St. W., following the March 2021 fire. The church offered to house the families in fifth wheel trailers. As the year progressed and permanent accommodation had not been secured, the idea of winterizing the trailers on the property began to take shape.
Even before the fire, Greenstreet had become more aware of the challenges faced by many in our community, especially those on Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The amount of money social assistance recipients receive each month is not enough to provide adequate housing in almost every municipality in the province, including Bradford West Gwillimbury.
Here in Barrie, the New Foundations initiative offers select landlords the opportunity to apply for financial assistance to complete an affordable housing feasibility study. The studies focus primarily on properties zoned institutional as well as certain places of worship outside institutional zones. Many of these sites are large and have the space to build affordable townhouses or small to medium sized apartments in conjunction with the existing permitted use. The council has decided that the city will fund up to 10 such studies, each valued at approximately $20,000, to provide a vision for building affordable housing on a property and outline practical steps.
For housing to be truly affordable, Greenstreet told Bradford councilors, rent should be included in the housing portion of their OT or ODSP, around $400 to $500 for a single person or $800 for a couple, plus any public services.
It’s a proposal from many advisers, including Coun. Mark Contois, are eager to at least drive.
“We have to do something as a community; we cannot sit idly by and do nothing,” he said while lamenting that projects like this are generally not available to receive federal or provincial government funding. “I think maybe the province needs to evolve as well and look at new innovative ideas that are reasonable for municipalities to implement…. It is temporary; it’s a pilot program; I would like to see if this works.
Com. Jonathan Scott echoed those sentiments.
“The worst-case scenario is if we approve this people get housing for three years,” he said.
Com. Gary Lamb has apologized to his colleagues for being more “pragmatic” about the proposal.
Lamb sees a different set of worst-case scenarios than Scott, including concerns about the potential for pop-up trailer parks where other residents or organizations with vacant land in town could turn their excess space into a for-profit business, or that the church could not pay tax for municipal services used by these trailers, where other landowners would.
He further questioned whether it was even up to the city to put in place such a development, given that social services fall under higher levels of government and the city is more focused on keeping the streets clean. and snow removal.
“It’s not an anti-poverty thing or anything like that,” Lamb said. “I believe in helping out, but I don’t want it to be a lifetime handout.”
Com. Ron Orr was concerned about the location of the church, located away from urban amenities. The fact that many residents do not have vehicles should not be taken as a deterrent, Greenstreet suggested.
“I think part of our middle-class mindset is getting in the way,” she said. “If I had to take public transport or walk from church to No Frills, I would suck. (For) these people, it’s not a problem and they’re quite happy to have a safe home.
Prior to the meeting, councilors each received a letter of objection to the proposal, signed by 14 residents of Grandview Crescent, the housing estate to the east of the church along Line 9. This correspondence shared the concerns of Orr regarding the location, not only in terms of access and security, but also due to a lack of compatibility with the area, as the trailers would not be in keeping with the character of the surrounding homes and would face security issues. potential safety of nearby industrial facilities.
Greenstreet has heard some of these concerns before, as her family built the first garden suite in Bradford West Gwillimbury to house her mother.
“I understand the neighbors of Grandview and their concerns; our own neighbors had concerns and we have great neighbors,” Greenstreet said. “You’re imagining trailer trash – let’s just be real. We are committed to making them uniform…and making them beautiful.
Mayor Rob Keffer wondered what the church congregation thought of the proposal. A 10-year lease was signed with the church for $2 a year following a unanimous vote of support from parishioners, Greenstreet said.
The Board’s decision on this will come following a staff report, which will be presented at a future meeting.