Condo development proposal for affordable rentals

By Darren Lum

A delegation at last week’s Highlands East council meeting on Tuesday, April 13 is bringing hope for affordable housing with a 40-unit condominium project for independent living seniors in Cardiff.

Led by Stephen Tunks, the chairman of Teska Development Corporation, the request was for council to enter into negotiations to purchase the 2778 Monck Road property for his Cardiff condominium project.

The project includes a pair of two storey buildings, each with 20 units, including 12 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units. There will be two elevators and a stairwell and parking will be at the front and the back of the building. The building will be a slab on grade (no basement) and made from wood with a steel roof, which costs more initially, but is more cost effective because of its 50-year warranty, suitability for the solar panel installation and its environmental impact is less than an asphalt roof. The plan includes keeping the post office, the library and the food bank where they are. He also offered a $1 annual fee for the food bank with a 20-year term. The former Highlands East Township office building is expected to be repurposed in a community centre for the residents.

Tunks said the idea for this development is not to just add housing, but to also create an investment property for purchasers.

“The whole concept behind this project was to create an investment property for some people who would create a rental income property. In order to be able to produce apartments that were designed, but not exclusively to seniors who would like to maintain independent living status. In other words the project doesn’t have a dining room, or any medical assistance. They’re literally just small apartments,” he said.

He adds doorways throughout will accommodate wheelchairs and the units will have walk-in showers, and the elevators will be large enough for gurneys while each suite will be on one floor. Solar panels on the roof will eliminate hydro costs except for meter charges.

The chairman said he acknowledges the water and sewage capabilities may be a constraint for the development, but that he was willing to pay the costs to enhance the service, which would be part of the negotiations for purchasing the land.

Deputy Mayor Cecil Ryall welcomed this proposal and thanked Tunks for looking to invest in the area.

“It’s very, very refreshing to look at the way that you’re looking at it and to look at the target market you’re looking at,” he said.

Project cost will be low through having a simple design, a stick frame building and a steel roof with vinyl siding. The rent fees will be approximately $900 for a one-bedroom and $1,100 for a two-bedroom and will cover condo fees and taxes.

“The recognition is this is Cardiff, it’s not Toronto, and the rents here are going to have to be at market value otherwise it’s just not going to work,” Tunks said.

He said if it weren’t for COVID-19 related restrictions he would have held a “coffee and doughnuts,” event for the public already. The timeline for the construction from start to finish would take eight and a half months, he said. Without COVID restrictions, the project could be delivered by spring 2022.

Coun. Cam McKenzie said an issue he’s heard from constituents already is about the lease agreement and whether it will permit subletting, and rentals for summer accommodation and Airbnb.

Tunks recommends the township take steps to prevent this.

“I would say to you as a township, if you want to ensure that this problem does not put its head up later on that you stipulate within the building permit that such an operation is prohibited,” he said.

Mayor Dave Burton said this is exciting news, but there is a lot of work to do before selling the property, such as a study about the capacity for water and sewage to handle 40 more homes.

“I do feel we’re … I wouldn’t say rushing things, but we’re premature with some of the things … we still have a lot of work on this end, Steve. I’m not trying to pour any cold water on the project. Don’t get me wrong, but I think we have steps we have to go through. I certainly appreciate … I certainly can’t see putting this together to meet your timelines.”

Tunks recognizes the effort still required and is open to being patient.

“We’ve all come to the conclusion COVID-19 has thrown as many wrenches at you as you can think [of]and it will take whatever time it takes, including whatever time the municipality needs to accomplish the application and things like that,” Tunks said. “The specific ask is we enter into some negotiations with regards to buying the property. That’s the fundamental portion of the whole project.”

CAO Shannon Hunter said among the first steps related to the property negotiations is for council to deem this property as surplus and get a “fair market value” appraisal, as part of the municipality’s disposition bylaw.