Attainable housing group asks TBM to waive fees, and extend $1.2M loan

·5 min read

The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is entertaining a number of asks from the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC) as the corporation inches forward with its Gateway project in Thornbury.

Current site plans for the Gateway site, located at 171 King Street East in Thornbury, include 84 units – 54 of which will be considered attainable – and 12,500-square-feet of commercial space.

However, the BMAHC has yet to decide if the project will consist of one or two buildings.

“We're working through those numbers at this current time. But as we indicated back when we did the survey around this project about a year ago, we talked about a $30 million project,” stated Cary Eagleson, treasurer for the BMAHC board during a deputation to TBM council at a meeting held earlier this week. "It's still around $30-million."

“If we end up deciding to go with two buildings, there's probably going to be some increased cost,” he added.

Rob Sampson, chair of the BMAHC and TBM councillor said the board has “significant work to do” on the one-versus-two building concept, “so that we can get those numbers better in hand.”

Eagleson was joined by the BMAHC executive director, Sharon McCormick, in the presentation of the corporation’s high-level budget estimates to TBM council.

Through the deputation, McCormick made a number of requests to council, which included:

The corporation has requested TBM increase its existing operating bridge loan from the town to a maximum of $1.2 million to support its work until rental income is being generated.

“We are working hard toward being a self-sustaining entity. We recognize though that as a startup, there is a time period where working capital is required in order to bridge the gap until rental income is actually being generated,” said McCormick.

She explained that the BMAHC board anticipates it will need $340,000 in 2021, $360,000 in 2022 and $400,000 for 2023 to cover operating expenses.

Construction on the Gateway site is expected to start in early 2022 with completion of construction and occupancy expected by 2024.

According to Eagleson, the largest ticket item in the corporation’s operating expenses are related to human resources.

“Salaries, rent, and office expenses are around $277,000 to $290,000 per year over the next three years,” he said.

McCormick said in 2021, the board is embarking on a “transition period”, where they plan to put in place a part-time administrative support person, who would provide support for the board in terms of scheduling and coordinating meetings.

The BMAHC is also planning to hire a housing manager.

“We are looking to create a 12-month, contract position that can build out the attainable rental program, taking into account the regulatory requirements that relate to the provision of housing, and develop the program operations,” McCormick said.

According to McCormick, in 2020 the corporation secured $408,000 in funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) seed grant for pre-development work, as well as $152,000 from the Green Municipal Fund Grant, which was applied to an energy feasibility study on the Gateway site.

“We continue to apply for additional grants and we will continue that work going forward every year,” she said.

“Our intent here is to work with the Government of Ontario, and also with the federal government, through the CMHC National Housing grant, to be able to take that $1.8 million dollar contribution from TBM [from the land donation and demolition costs] and be able to leverage that with both of those agencies, and be able to secure a $2 million additional contribution and up to a $2.2 million contribution through the National Housing grant,” McCormick said.

The BMAHC representatives also stated that they have been providing the corporation’s yearly audited financial statements, board minutes and monthly financial reports to the town and will continue to do so as they move forward.

The BMAHC is a corporation that is owned by TBM, with TBM maintaining controlling interest at all times.

“Being a municipally-controlled corporation, if BMAHC was dissolved at any point in time, where we had completed our mission of closing the affordability gap, these resources and assets would be returned back to the town as per the bylaws and the articles of incorporation for BMAHC,” McCormick added.

To address the asks from the BMAHC board, TBM council members have asked town staff to prepare a report that will outline the financial contributions from the town, including where they are drawn from and the impact it may have.

“This is a key and critical time in my mind in regards to moving forward successfully with attainable housing in TBM,” said Shawn Everitt, CAO for TBM.

“This is the ask that staff have been looking forward to for a number of months, because, now we have an ask that we can provide recommendations on and options to help assist and provide council members with that opportunity to be very clear and transparently make a decision on how we're going to proceed with the funding for operations for the BMAHC,” Everitt said.

In addition to the staff report on financial contributions, Everitt will also provide a report on the town’s relationship with the BMAHC up until this point.

“I'm actively working on a report that identifies the historic funding that has been provided to the BMAHC over the last number of years. Because I think that's an extremely important history lesson for all members of the community to understand,” he said.

Both staff reports are scheduled to be presented to council at the April 20 committee of the whole meeting with council approval expected to follow at the council meeting scheduled for May 3.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca