Would take on $9 million mortgage; seeks in-kind support from Town
Atikokan Progress | September 9, 2019 | M. McKinnon
Community Living Atikokan hopes to break ground on a thirty-unit seniors’ housing complex here this coming spring.
“This year marks Community Living Atikokan’s fiftieth anniversary… and to commemorate the occasion CLA has undertaken the development of a housing project with the hope of giving back to the community that has supported up for so many years,” CLA executive director Jim Turner told Council Tuesday.
He was there to officially request Council’s support for the project. Specifically, CLA is asking for in-kind support in the form of a donation of the land, the waiving of some service fees, and a temporary reduction in property taxes once the units are opened.
“This involves no cash outlay from the Town,” he said. “The project’s viability and ultimate success is dependent upon this support.”
CLA, working through the National Housing Strategy and with the Canadian Housing Mortgage Corp., would hold the mortgage (approximately $9 million), and would manage the property as the tenants’ landlord.
The project has been in the works for some time, and Community Living Atikokan is ready to proceed. A developer with experience in the region is on board, CLA has engaged consultants and legal advisors, and CLA has had at least one in-camera meeting with Council about the project.
There is a fair degree of overlap between the CLA board and the Town: CAO Jason Young, Mayor Dennis Brown, and Councillor Brian Stimson are all members of the CLA board. Council moved in-camera to discuss the request for the land and other in-kind considerations (it is a property matter, and thus can be moved to closed session); all three CLA board members declared a conflict and left the meeting at that point. Treasurer Brandy Coulson is leading the staff handling of the matter.
Councillor Liz Shine, who chaired the meeting after the mayor left, said Wednesday that Council would consider a resolution regarding the request at tonight’s meeting.
The Town and Atikokan Economic Development Corp. have made several attempts to put together a seniors’ housing development over the past five years. Such a development would go a long way to easing the housing shortage here and offer seniors who want to stay in town a manageable way to do that.
But those efforts have come up empty because ultimately the Town would end up having to hold (or at least guarantee) the mortgage, a move which would limit its ability to finance needed infrastructure work on roads and Town facilities.
Community Living Atikokan, which has been in the property business for decades providing accommodations for its members, is big enough to take on the project, and has the necessary property management experience to do it effectively.
“We are not doing this to make money,” said Turner. “We are a non-profit charitable organization; we are in this because the town needs it. Seniors are leaving Atikokan because of the lack of housing options for them here.”
AEDC executive director Garry McKinnon said that agency has been working to assist CLA with the project since it was conceived, providing the studies and surveys it has conducted over the years.
“I think it’s great – it’s going to be a good thing for the community,” he said.
CLA’s Turner told us the only concern he’s heard during the development of the proposal is the location of the project. Past surveys of seniors here indicated they would prefer to live downtown, or close to it.
“But there just isn’t one spot where we could do anything of this size in the downtown area. We’d have to split it up over three different sites, which would really push the costs up,” he said.
Higher costs would mean higher rents.
CVG Builders is a design-build contractor based in Cochrane, Ontario. Established in 1975, it has worked all over Northern Ontario. It built the 32-suite retirement living complex in Cochrane and the 36-suite complex in Marathon. It has also been lead on a number of other high profile projects, including Collège Boréal in Timmins, École Catholique Nouveau Regard, a K-12 school in Cochrane, and the Veterans Affairs Canada Ontario regional office in Kirkland Lake.
CVG is also working on a fifty-unit seniors complex for Conmee.
“The proximity of that is a benefit to our project, which would be built in conjunction with the Conmee project to bring down our construction costs,” said Turner.
The company has assisted CLA in its applications to CMHC and the National Housing Strategy. Community Living has also been working with a consulting firm, Commerce Management Group, and a Toronto law firm that specializes in construction projects (Rousseau Mazzuca LLP), to help prepare the CMHC application.
Finally, Turner noted that the conceptual plan shows a green area adjoining the property.
“This isn’t included in the financial plan; what we want to do is apply to the fifty or so Ontario foundations that support projects for seniors,” he said. “We’ve done the research and we know who supports this kind of project.”