Is a developer’s offer of affordable housing units affordable enough?
LONDON, ONT. -- A proposed high rise may receive planning concessions from city hall in exchange for an enhanced building design and thirty-year commitment to provide some affordable apartments.
But during Monday’s public participation meeting held by the Planning and Environment Committee, an emergency homeless shelter questioned if the commitment to affordable housing goes far enough.
Medallion Corporation is seeking to rezone the southwest corner of Dundas and Hewitt in the Old East Village to build a 24-storey apartment building.
Called a ‘bonus zone’, the development requires special permission from city council to exceed the height and density permitted on the property.
In exchange for the bonus zone, city planners recommend several design enhancements to the building and a 30-year agreement to include 13 affordable apartments that will be rented at 80 per cent of average market rent.
“We are asking whether apartments at 80 per cent of market value can really be considered affordable?” asked Amanda Grzyb, Chair of the Board at the Unity Project.
Thirteen units represents just 5.3 per cent of the 243 apartment units in the building.
Grzyb suggested thirty units at much lower rent-geared-to-income levels.
The Unity Project will be the next door neighbour of the 24-storey apartment on Dundas Street.
During the planning committee members’ discussion of affordability, several councillors referred to a social housing project under construction across the street from Medallion’s site.
Indwell, a charity organization based in Hamilton, is building 72 units of housing with supports for people with disabilities on the site of the former Ambassador
“Those rents are much lower than 80 per cent of average market,” explained Councillor Jesse Helmer who represents the neighbourhood. “And there’s a 42-unit building that just went up, and is operating, further down Dundas (Street).
Helmer added, “Not everything has to happen in the same building, and I think this is a good step forward.”
The planning committee unanimously supported Medallion’s application and the bonus zone requiring just 13 affordable units at 80 percent of average market rent, as recommended by staff.
“The idea that this would be the solution to affordable housing, or would provide wider relief for the affordable housing issue is not something it was meant to do,” said PEC Chair Phil Squire.
Council will consider the rezoning application at its meeting on February 2.