Brampton bylaw review could freeze any new seniors' homes

Residents opposed to a seniors' home proposed for their Brampton neighbourhood could trigger a process that would effectively freeze any new long-term care facilities, or any other supportive housing, pending a review of the city's bylaws, says a local councillor.

"It's essentially a freeze on all supportive housing unit applications citywide. And so that will prevent us from having new senior's homes operating in Brampton," Charmaine Williams told CBC Toronto.

The city's planning and development committee has asked staff to draft an interim control bylaw that would effectively freeze any supportive housing facilities, including group homes like the one proposed, pending a review of the bylaws covering these types of facilities.

The dispute that triggered the process involves a home at 23 Hillside Drive in the Bramalea Woods area. Esther Issacs bought the detached house and over the summer applied for it to be turned into a private retirement home called Rebeccaville for half a dozen seniors.

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Some long time residents of the street and others who live in the neighbourhood oppose her plan and called for a review of the application. At a planning and development meeting, members voted to ask staff to report back on instituting a freeze pending a review.

"What is so different about this application that you seek to change the rules for the entire city of Brampton?" asked Isaacs at the Nov. 4 meeting. "You cannot retroactively change the rules, but more importantly the city of Brampton has a shortage of hospital beds and my retirement home is part of that solution."

But longtime residents of the street say linking this home to other issues, such as a lack of long term beds and 'hallway healthcare' is the latest effort to force the approval of the facility though, whether the community wants it or not.

"We're not against seniors. We're against a business going into a residential area," said Lesley Nicol, who has lived with her daughter on the street for nine years.

"Most of the people in this area are in their 80s. They're seniors. So don't come to us and tell us we're not concerned about seniors."

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Nicol says the issue is that residents like her do not think the location is appropriate for any business, not just a seniors' home. And she says triggering an interim control bylaw, which will freeze new seniors' home applications, is unfortunate.

"I think it's sad that that's going to happen because of that, because I'm sure there's areas where it is appropriate to put a home."

But Coun. Williams argues the city should not be freezing new long term care facilities but instead encouraging more to be built.

She says Brampton has among the worst hospital overcrowding situations in the GTA and is unveiling a plan to fast track applications for private operators.

"I think we should encourage retirement home operators to open up in Brampton and for the city team and fast track as many as 50 homes right away," she said.

"Under our current bylaw a person can house about six people in each home. So that could be like a 300 bed solution and 300 beds is the equivalent of opening a new hospital in Brampton."

But resident Nicol says she thinks the proposed home on Hillside is not the cure for so-called hallway healthcare in Ontario.

"I don't believe that six people are going to make a difference in those hallways," she said.

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Warren Parkes is another resident of the street. He says the city needs to determine the rules governing such facilities before more can be approved.

"We want to make sure it's done right," he said, adding he just wants to be sure city bylaws and zoning are being followed.

"Honestly. I think you'd find at least half the residents — if it was done probably — wouldn't have a problem with it," said Parkes.

The proposed interim control bylaw will go before Brampton city council Wednesday.