TBM planning to dissolve attainable housing corporation

The Town of The Blue Mountains is moving towards closing the book on its attainable housing corporation.

At a special committee of the whole meeting on June 17, council voted 4-3 in favour of a recommendation from town CAO Shawn Everitt to begin the legal process to wind down the operations of the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC).

The decision will come to council’s meeting on June 24 for ratification.

The resolution was supported by Mayor Andrea Matrosovs, Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon and Councillors Gail Ardiel and Shawn McKinlay.

The future of the housing corporation has been up in the air since late 2023 when the volunteer board of directors stepped down from their positions in the wake of the failure of the planned Gateway attainable housing project on town-owned land located at 171 King Street in Thornbury.

In response, council appointed a new board comprised of members of town staff, along with Matrosovs and McKinlay – council’s appointees on the board, who have been meeting for the past several months to determine how to proceed with the corporation. Everitt was named president/chair of the board.

At the meeting, Everitt delivered a report that recommended the dissolution of the corporation and the internalization of the corporation’s activities and role through the creation of a new Attainable Housing Committee of council. The report also recommended the town engage with a local citizen’s group that is studying housing options in order to determine a path forward for the town.

To corroborate that he was delivering the report as chair/president of the corporation, Everitt vacated his seat at the town staff table and spoke to council from the lectern in the council chambers.

Everitt told council that at this point in time, the housing corporation has no support structure to continue and that the current board made up of staff was given until July to deliver a recommendation.

“There is no proposed funding in 2024 or 2025 to keep this corporation going,” he said.

Everitt said for the housing corporation to continue it would have to go back to being “arm’s-length” from the town with its own mandate and a budget.

Everitt’s report set off a lengthy discussion and debate that consumed a large part of the morning portion of the meeting and saw council divided into two blocks on the matter. Those who supported the end of the housing corporation and a new approach and those who felt dissolving the corporation would be premature.

Everitt estimated that the dissolution of the corporation would cost about $30,000 for 2023 and 2024 audits and to prepare the legal documents to end the corporate structure. Everitt said before the current board for the corporation stands down, they would prepare a draft terms of reference for the new attainable housing committee for the town.

Everitt also said the town will need to rethink its approach to attainable/affordable housing.

“The mindset and the commitment has to be: can we actually move the needle and get units in here?” he said, noting that several years ago the town set the goal of having 100 attainable units in the east side of town and 100 units in the west side by now. “We have one.”

He also said the town is also going to have to face the reality that planning policies will have to change to kickstart the development of attainable units. He said conversations must be had about density, height and options to fast track proposals.

“What are you willing to see in this town to get keys in the door?” said Everitt.

Councillors Paula Hopen, June Porter and Alex Maxwell all expressed reservations about shutting down the corporation too soon.

“I feel like a lightning rod for the frustrations of the community around this particular portfolio,” said Hope. “Leadership is really required. I would not support dissolving the BMHAC at this point.”

The majority of council decided it was time to move on to a new direction.

“I thought very carefully about the work that has been done. I’m prepared to make that decision,” said Mayor Andrea Matrosovs. “The lack of a decision is what is going to drag us down and hold us back.”

Bordignon agreed.

“We have to make a decision. We’ve done nothing for six years,” he said.

The resolution approved by the committee calls for the full dissolution of the corporation by Dec. 1, 2024. The decision will have to be ratified at a council meeting. Everitt was also directed to deliver a follow-up report about the path forward.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca