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Jan. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
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NOTL could see first affordable housing project
Photo illustration of a potential affordable housing complex in NOTL. (Supplied)

A NOTL developer wants to build 16 new affordable rental units in Virgil.

Rainer Hummel of Hummel Properties Inc. told town council Monday night his company is looking to build two five- or six-storey buildings in Virgil. There would be 40 units in each building and 20 per cent of them would be considered affordable, Hummel said.

The one- to three-bedroom units would range in size from 1,000 square feet to about 1,400 square feet.

Hummel Properties owns 16 acres in Virgil along Niagara Stone Road, across from Crossroads Public School and near Trius Winery and Restaurant.

Three acres of the property would be for the rental accommodation buildings while the rest of the land, 13 acres, would be used for mixed-use residential development, said Hummel.

The project would be built under the National Housing Strategy, a federal program providing affordable rental accommodations. The program has $3.75 billion in available loans and is open until 2021.

To be eligible for the program, developers must meet several criteria, including having at least five rental units and a loan of at least $1 million.

To satisfy the program’s minimum requirement, at least 16 units out of the 80 total units have to be affordable with an average rent of $1,260, according to the company’s internal study. The rest of the units would carry a rent of about $1,400.

“That’s a bare minimum that you’re required to do. And you probably can’t qualify if you did that,” Hummel said in a phone interview Wednesday. “You’ll need more (affordable units) than that.”

Under the federal program, the buildings cannot be use for student housing, retirement homes or short-term rentals.

The funding for the project would come from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as the federal program, said Hummel.

Based on affordable housing programs in Peterborough and Kitchener-Waterloo, the developer is asking the town to be exempt from property taxes in the first four years and be fully taxed by year 10.

Hummel also wants concessions on development charges, all municipal fees and park dedication fees.

Coun. Allan Bisback said he was “intrigued and interested” in the projec, but wants to look at the bigger picture and have more details on what’s going to happen with the rest of the land.

He noted the town has “traffic issues” in the area, which is near where the Crossroads Medical Centre is planned.

“We are at the early stages. We are here to see, to gauge interest, to find out is our municipality interested in this,” said Hummel. “If you’re not, we’re good with that, we’re fine. But if you are, then we would make the necessary investments to determine what the mix would be.”

Affordable housing is an issue in many cities and towns across Canada. In the St. Catharines-Niagara region, for example, the vacancy rate was 2.5 per cent as of October 2018, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics.

The average sale price for a residential property in NOTL in April 2019 was $939,488, according to a  market report done by the Niagara Association of Realtors.