Community backlash kills plan to build affordable housing in Mt. Brydges park

·2 min read

Strathroy-Caradoc officials are reworking a proposed affordable housing development in Mt. Brydges after the plan drew backlash from locals who questioned its location at a community park.

After blowback at a virtual public meeting this week, the municipality said it's looking for a new location for an attainable housing build, scrapping the originally proposed site at Cenotaph Park on Queen Street.

“It’s the community working with council and we’re listening to each other,” said Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden. “The site that we picked in the first place we’re not looking at anymore.”

Officials were applying to change the zoning at Helen and Queen streets to build a 30-unit residential building to address a “significant shortage of attainable housing.”

But many residents in the community of about 2,000, while acknowledging the importance of affordable housing, argued against building it at Cenotaph Park.

“It’s an essential green area that they can’t get back once they take it,” resident Melanie Franke said.

An online petition urging council to change the site of the development drew more than 800 signatures.

Many residents voiced their displeasure at a digital meeting Wednesday, prompting officials to reconsider.

“When the community feels like they were heard, I think it’s a huge win for us,” said lifelong Mt. Brydges resident Kevin Kingma, who spearheaded the "Not in My Park" campaign against the plan.

He stressed locals aren’t against building attainable housing, but felt the park location wasn’t suitable, arguing it would take away green space, not provide enough parking and that the proposed building would leave a nearby splash pad in shade.

The original proposal called for a four-storey building with 22 one-bedroom, four two-bedroom and four bachelor units and 17 parking spaces.

Now, Vanderheyden said council will search for a new site.

“There really are currently no rental units in Mt. Brydges, which really is unacceptable,” she said. “ We know there’s a need, so we have to address that.”

But changing the location on an already tight timeline could disrupt the project.

The build is being funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and is tied to a Rapid Housing Initiative that requires ground to be broken by March 31.

“That’s a little problematic, but I hope that’s not too big of a problem . . . (to) get past,” Vanderheyden said. “We are working with our partners to still get this accomplished.”

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Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press