Last week for National Housing Day, the St. Catharines City Council voted to transform an under-utilized downtown property into affordable housing to help tackle the housing crisis in the city.
A staff report to the council on November 18 suggested that the city sell the land on the open market and direct a portion of the sale proceeds to aid in the implementation of the city’s housing action plan.
The unanimous vote outlined that the city-owned property at 6-8 Academy St. would be listed for sale with the condition that a buyer include long-term affordable housing provisions. This will occur through a request for proposals (RFP) process.
Councillor Karrie Porter made a motion for Council to surplus the property for affordable housing. Her motion outlined that new residential construction has been dominated by condos while detached homes, townhouses and purpose-built rental housing have fallen behind in popularity. As a result, St. Catharines has experienced a severe drop in vacancy rates and has seen dramatic increases in rental prices.
“All levels of government must do their part to create more affordable housing. With this direction city council has taken an innovative approach to achieving maximum value and public good through use of our lands,” said Porter. “It is a leap forward and I am proud that we are moving forward and sticking by our commitment to create a more affordable and livable community.”
Located in the heart of downtown and next to the main bus terminal, the building on Academy St. is 540 square metres and currently houses the fire prevention division of St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services. With plans to move fire prevention staff into another new city-owned facility on Carlisle St., the council seized the opportunity to make use of the property to improve on housing options within the city.
The aim of the changes made is to ensure that a livable, mixed-income rental property, including rent geared to income, is developed near the St. Catharines’ main transit hub.
The parameters for the new development will be established through a formal RFP that will be advertised by the city early next year. A development committee of members of St. Catharines city council and staff will be involved in the creation of the RFP and details will be made available on the city’s website.
“I am proud that city council has made a bold decision to take action on the affordable housing crisis,” said St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik. “We know this is only one part of the solution to a huge challenge. Taken together with the housing action plan, updating our incentives programs and working with other partners, these actions will have impacts.”
Individuals who desire to learn more about the next steps the City of St. Catharines will be taking to create more affordable housing are encouraged to reach out to the Office of the Mayor by calling 905-688-5601 ext. 1540. The office can also be emailed at email@example.com.