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Building on parking lots, office building conversions, and a gift from local developers: Highlights from the State of the City Address


Mayor Josh Morgan touted new housing strategies and progress on the city’s homelessness strategy in his second State of the City Address.

On Thursday, more than 1,200 local business leaders attended the RBC Place Convention Centre to hear the mayor’s annual speech about recent municipal accomplishments and his priorities for the coming year.

Morgan focused most of his attention on homelessness and the housing crisis, including a new Community Improvement Plan (CIP) that will offer financial incentives to convert vacant downtown office space into residential units.

The office vacancy rate is almost 30 per cent in downtown London.

“Our program proposes a grant of $20,000 for single bedroom apartments, and $28,000 for apartments of two or more bedrooms. The opportunity to breathe new life into these buildings is immense,” he told the audience.

Morgan suggested funding for the CIP come out of the $74 million awarded to London from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.

Meanwhile, the mayor also pitched a first-of-its-kind plan to partner with private developers to transform some core area municipal parking lots into residential buildings with public parking in the garages.

Morgan believes it will result in more parking and more people living downtown.

The organization that represents local developers is already expressing interest.

Mike Wallace of the London Development Institute told CTV News, “We think that this is an opportunity that our industry will be interested in working with the city in a partnership for the redevelopment of those lots.”

Later in his address, the mayor expressed gratitude for the significant progress made during the first year of London’s Whole of Community Response to Homelessness.

Last January, he announced a $25 million anonymous donation to launch the homelessness strategy.

On Thursday, Morgan said the Health and Homelessness Fund for Change has now raised almost $35 million, including matching dollars.

He also praised a recent acquisition by four London-based developers that will add to the strategy’s momentum.

Tricar, Auburn Group, Drewlo, and Sifton Properties acquired the former Elmwood Place Long-term Care Home (on Elmwood Place) and will partner with operator Indwell to create at least 40 supportive housing units for Londoners transitioning out of homelessness.

“This is a tremendous opportunity where developers have come together to try to be part of the solution to health and homelessness and put their money on the table to make this happen,” said Morgan.

There will be upcoming opportunities for community input about the project, but neighbour Gary Noddle told CTV News he welcomes the facility.

“I'm all for giving a second chance to somebody. We all need a second chance or a stepping stone to get started,” he said.

On Feb. 1, the mayor will unveil his multi-year budget for council’s consideration.

Although Morgan acknowledged the impact that inflation and interest rates are having on affordability, he warned Londoners that his budget will include funding to modernize the London Police Service, hire more officers, and shorten 9-1-1 response times.

He reiterated that according to crime severity data, London has become the third most dangerous city in Ontario.

“I will be unequivocal in my support for an unprecedented investment in public safety, the largest of its kind in London's history,” he committed.

His speech concluded, “While the state of our times may be challenging—the state of our city is strong.”

The crowd rose in a standing ovation. Top Stories

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