A minimum of 18-unit affordable housing units could be built in Bracebridge.
The units will be geared towards seniors – specifically women – and was approved by district council on Feb. 21.
However, it’s pending approval by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) through the third round of its Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). The project, if granted funding, would cost up to $8.4 million, according to Arfona Zwiers, commissioner of community and planning services. As part of the RHI initiative, the district would have to contribute at least 40 percent of the project’s cost. Zwiers says the rest will be covered through funding from the government.
She explains the building could be either three or four storeys and would be built behind McVitties Place near 102 Pine St. in Bracebridge. Zwiers told council the district already owns the land.
According to Zwiers report, the goal, if approved and construction goes forward, is for the first occupant to move in by Oct. 2024.
The design contract was awarded to Montgomery Sisam Architects, based in Toronto, who Zwiers says the district has done business with before. As well, she points out they have worked on other RHI initiatives in Ontario.
The original idea called for the building to be three storeys with 18 units, however, Jeff Lehman, district chair, floated the idea of building a four-storey building with 26 units.
“We should be looking at trying to maximize the housing opportunity and leveraging the funding because these opportunities don’t come across the table every single day,” said Bracebridge Mayor Rick Maloney during the meeting. “The window is open. Let’s try to get as much through that window before it gets slammed shut.”
Zwiers says some of the units would be considered accessible with larger doorways, a turning radius within the units, a roll-in shower, roll-under counters for wheelchair accessibility, and appliance controls that are wheelchair accessible. The remaining units would be “modified” one-bedroom units to allow for aging in places. They would include what’s in the accessible units minus accessible counters and appliances.
Zwiers said rent will be 80 percent of the average market rent for one-bedroom units, according to CMHC data, at the time the building opens. She says a rent subsidy will be available as well.
Zwiers says she’s confident about the district’s application because, during the current round of funding, CMHC is putting more value in approving applications from places that haven’t submitted one before. She added 50 percent of the units will be geared towards senior women, which also gives them bonus points in the eyes of CMHC.
In Zweirs report, she notes that the district currently has 611 applicants on the rent-geared-to-income centralized waitlist. Of those, 138 are seniors and 72 of them are women. On the affordable housing waitlist, of the 109 waiting for a place to live, 91 are seniors and 45 of them are women.
“We’re hitting the target where I believe we need to hit,” said Maloney.
The application process started in Dec. and Zwiers says it will be submitted prior to March 3. She adds they will know if they’re successful in July. Ahead of that, the district will put out a request for proposals (RFP) to make sure the land is “shovel ready” if they get approval. Zwiers explains the RFP will be structured in a way that explains to bidders the contract is pending funding approval.
“Having prepared the site will make us that more shovel ready should another opportunity come about like this in the future,” she says about if the district’s funding application is rejected.