TBM council forgives $744,000 loan to housing corporation

The Town of The Blue Mountains has conceded it will not be able to collect a $744,000 operating loan given to the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC).

At its meeting on Oct. 30, council unanimously passed a resolution to release the housing corporation from its responsibility to repay the operating loan.

In an extensive report on the matter, CAO Shawn Everitt said there was no reasonable prospect for the corporation to be able to repay the amount lent by the town, as it has few revenue opportunities.

“Staff must advise council and the public that no realistic scenario can currently be proposed that would see the BMAHC having the financial capability to pay off its debt or any variation thereof,” Everitt stated in his report.

Over the past several years, the town lent operating funds to the housing corporation as it pursued the development of the Gateway attainable housing project at town-owned property at 171 King Street. That process came to a halt earlier this year when a single bid for the project was deemed not viable.

Subsequently, the executive director of the housing corporation resigned and the organization’s future was left in limbo.

The intention was that once Gateway was built, the housing corporation would have a steady revenue stream that would enable it to repay the operating funds it had borrowed from the town. Gateway included a mixture of attainable units, market-rate units and commercial properties.

Everitt called the situation a “harsh reality” and advised that 71 per cent of the money loaned to the corporation was spent on staffing costs. Other expenses included reports and work needed to prepare the King Street property for development. All of the reports completed about the King Street property have been provided to the town.

The resolution approved by council also envisioned the housing corporation taking on a new mandate for the future. The precise nature of that mandate will be determined in due course. In the report, Everitt suggested the corporation could be involved with the down payment assistance and secondary suite programs in the town’s Community Improvement Plan.

Members of council made it clear that it was time for the town to pay the piper and move on from the Gateway issue.

“I had a lot of concerns from the financial perspective all along. I’m very saddened by what has transpired,” said Coun. Paula Hope. “This has been a very, very expensive process.”

Members of council also agreed that a new mandate for the housing corporation would be a good idea.

“I do think we do need the BMAHC,” said Hope, who said the corporation could be an important partner in assuring that new attainable units that are built in the community, remain attainable. “That’s a really important role that they can play.”

Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon agreed that a new mandate for the corporation was important, but that should be a discussion for another day.

“I would like to see a modified mandate. I’m not sure what that is,” he said.

Although the future of the 171 King Street property was briefly touched on during the discussion about the resolution, no decisions were made about what to do with the property.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,