County apartments on Rowe Street to be demolished

The County of Grey is moving toward demolishing its subsidized apartments on Rowe Street in Dundalk.

A plan to re-build bigger on the same site has been in the works for a few years, but was slowed because Grey had to use the money instead for emergency shelter.

County staff replied to a question about timing from The Herald that the hope is to complete the demolition this summer before school starts.

GETTING READY

Now, the County wants to have the site shovel-ready, which is a condition of getting financial support from the federal government. Construc­tion needs to be able to start within three or four months of funding being awarded.

The total estimated cost is about $14.7 million. That includes a per unit construction cost of about $365,000 per unit or just over $13 million. The rest is for “soft costs” and five percent set aside for the unexpected.

“The exciting part is going from 11 units. It’s going to be one-bedrooms and bachelors – 36 units,” said Deputy Mayor Barbara Dobreen in an interview.

She’s part of the committee on Community Services at the County of Grey. Members approved the report on May 30, which went to Grey Committee of the Whole last Thursday, June 13.

The units planned for the proposed three-storey building will be a mix of rent geared to income, affordable and market rents.

The building was approved for a starter grant of $30,000 for planning, and an architect did an initial design to see what could be built on the one acre of developable land.

The County plans to have the build meet energy-efficient targets to qualify for more funding for green affordable builds. That means less than 80 kilowatt hours of energy used per square metre, with about one-third of the units being 80 percent or less of market rent.

SMALLER UNITS NEEDED

The greatest need among those on the County wait list for rent-geared-to-income housing is for smaller units – bachelors and one-bedroom apartments.

The staff report noted that there are about 182 Grey County residents on the rent-geared-to-income wait list for Dundalk, and 260 people in total waiting for County housing in the town.

Another part of the report caught the Deputy Mayor’s attention – the jump of 21 percent in one year of people in Southgate who are receiving Ontario Works. It rose from 83 in March of 2023 to 101 in March of 2024.

“It’s a real eye-opener”, she said, speculating that it is likely because of the town’s growth and proximity to the GTA where people are being forced out by higher prices.

The County estimates the demolition cost at $20,000, which is in the 2024 budget. It could run up to $35,000 if asbestos is found in the building, but none was found in an initial survey.

Some of the tenants already have been re-located from the existing building at 130 Rowe’s Lane over the last two years. That building was the former Duneire Apartments, for which the foundation work was done in 1968.

SEARCH FOR FUNDING

The new build on Rowe’s Lane is part of the county’s affordable housing action plan and its 10-year housing and homelessness plan.

A more precise construction estimate will be required as the project moves forward. It’s hoped to obtain a federal grant that would cover 80 percent of the costs for the studies and analysis needed for getting money for a “sustainable” build.

Because affordable rents mean lower revenue, there’s a need to lower the mortgage carrying costs through more up-front capital. An operating subsidy is required to offset the mortgage, the staff report said.

The report noted that staff will be applying to as many funding sources as possible to reduce the capital costs.

Grey County has collected about $800,000 in Development Charges which are earmarked for the build.

CMHC has a co-investment grant that offers up to $75,000 per unit ($2.7 million for a build of this size). The Green Municipal Fund from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities offers up to 20 percent of the build cost in a mix of loan and grant.

Infrastructure Ontario offers long-term loans, the report noted, but “up-front capital will still be needed to make the project viable”.

The original concept for the building included some barrier-free units and a design to allow “aging in place” with accessibility. It also at that time proposed covered scooter parking, office space for staff and communal space for use by residents.

The motion to demolish the existing building becomes official once accepted by County Council at a regular meeting.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald