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Niagara Falls
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Letter to the editor: Why developer says he cancelled affordable housing project


Dear editor:

Providing any kind of rental housing, regardless of price, is extremely difficult to accomplish. It’s the reason rental apartments have not been built in decades.

To provide a portion of them as affordable, is even more difficult.

Communities such as Peterborough and Kitchener have given the development industry 10 years with no property taxes, no park dedication or development charges, no permit or application fees and have even gone so far as to provide cash incentives to spur on construction of rental buildings.

These communities had no willing developers and initiated a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) in the hopes of attracting investors. They were successful.

We approached the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake with a plan for rental apartments. We did not seek concessions in the magnitude, freely offered by other communities. However, we have carefully worked out the costing and determined the bare minimum to make such a project possible. A May 30 article in The Lake Report, Affordable development really affordable?, cites several sources that cause us grave concern.

Jeffery Sinclair from the Region of Niagara seems to be confused in thinking this is meant as housing for the homeless or most vulnerable.

It isn’t.

It is an affordable housing initiative under the Federal Housing Strategy. I’m not sure what he is talking about, however, persons moving from lesser rental accommodations to a new, more substantial property, would free up the less expensive rental units for a more vulnerable tenant. In short, the rental housing supply would increase, offering more choice at different price points.

Donna Woiceshyn, CEO of Niagara Regional Housing, seems to clearly grasp the intent of the legislation and its potential positive effects. We appreciate her input.

This was an effort on our company’s part to try to fill a local need. The messaging from the mayor’s office suggests to us that we apply and work through a process. Without some assurance there is a willingness to achieve an objective, we will have invested a large amount of money and be left with an unworkable financial situation.

Providing rental housing requires a commitment and I hope that at some point in the future, our council sees fit to follow the path of other communities that have had success in attracting rental development.

We feel that the messaging we heard from the mayor’s office will drain our energies and resources. It seems clear we would end up with an outcome that is less than what would be required for success.

With that said, we are regretfully withdrawing our proposal to provide rental apartments for Virgil. We will continue to explore the interest in Pelham, with the staff and community leaders there.

We would like to thank the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake staff, for their positive efforts and creative input in looking for solutions. We would also like to thank Regional Councillor Gary Zalepa for his immediate and unwavering support to try to create an environment where this could have become a reality.

Rainer Hummel

Hummel Properties Inc.

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