Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Gananoque requests expressions of interest for affordable housing

Gananoque Town Hall – Photo via the Town of Gananoque.

The Town of Gananoque has officially invited firms and individuals to submit Expressions of Interest for two surplus properties located within the town for the purposes of developing affordable housing.

The properties are located at 425 William Street South and 50 Birch Street.

In the request, which has now been made public, it reads that the minimum scope of affordability will be 20 per cent of the overall development and will form part of the rating criteria. The minimum affordability criteria being 80 per cent of the Alternative Average Market Rents as determined by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. The minimum expected period the units will remain affordable is 20 years, with associated covenants on title.

Staff’s report highlights a 2024 alternative average market rent table for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, effective Jan. 1, 2024, provided by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Community Housing Department. This table shows that monthly a bachelor apartment under the 2024 alternate average market rents would be around $1,057, $1,237 for a one bedroom, $1,446 for a two bedroom, $1,717 for a three bedroom, and $2,347 for four bedrooms and more. With 80 per cent of the 2024 alternate average market rent (max rent), monthly, a bachelor apartment would be roughly $846, a one bedroom would cost $990, a two bedroom would be $1,157, a three bedroom $1,717 and for four bedrooms or more, $1,878.

Recently, Gananoque council decided to take a different path in combating a shortage of affordable housing, rather than back a Habitat for Humanity proposal.

On Oct. 17, Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands made a proposal to council to build five affordable freehold townhouses on the lot located at the southeast corner of William and Arthur Streets.

At a Nov. 7 meeting, however, a majority on council felt that plan did not go far enough.

Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable mortgages. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund, which is used to build more houses. In addition to mortgage payments, each homeowner invests hundreds of hours of their own labour into the building of their house and the houses of others.

However, town officials, looking at the municipal land inventory for surplus lands that might be available for development, have identified two properties, located on William Street (the parcel of land on which Habitat wants to build) and Birch Street, both of which were previously discussed by councils as options for residential development and specifically, affordable housing.

With that in mind, council decided to declare the subject parcels of land surplus to the municipality’s needs and issue a call for expressions of interest for both lots to the marketplace, to invite developers to submit proposals. Habitat for Humanity is able to submit its proposal to the town alongside other interested parties.

“(We’re ) offering it to the entire community, whether it be private developers, Habitat for Humanity or the town itself,” said Shellee Fournier, the town’s chief administrative officer. “The idea there is they can all submit their proposals and council can truly identify the best use for these parcels.”

It was noted to council that the fair market value of the William Street lot is $300,000. Staff believes the lot can easily accommodate 10 units (or more). So, they concluded, to proceed with the Habitat proposal of building only five units on this lot would not maximize the economic and social benefit for the town.

The fair market value of the Birch Street lot is $50,000-$75,000. The lot can accommodate up to 12 units. Again, from the town’s perspective, building only five units on this lot would not result in the best economic and social impact for the town.

“Of the three options, (seeking expressions of interest for both lots) is the one that provides the most options going forward for public engagement,” said Mayor John Beddows.

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