By Mike Baker
Dysart et al Council last week agreed to provide around 2.7 acres of town-owned land to a local organization that is actively working to bring more affordable housing options to the community.
At its most recent meeting on Nov. 24, Dysart’s elected officials voted unanimously to dedicate the land, located on Wallings Road, to local non-profit Places for People. The charitable organization has more than a decade’s worth of history in Haliburton County, working to create and manage “quality housing” for low and moderate-income renters across the community, according to its mission statement. Places for People currently owns and manages seven units across the county.
Area resident Jody Curry, a long-time volunteer with Places for People, expressed her excitement over this new partnership when speaking with Dysart council last week. She said this new development, once complete, would go a long way to alleviating the issues many people in our community face when it comes to securing affordable housing.
“We’ve been searching for a property like this for two years now. We have done a lot of homework, and for us, this is just the perfect fit,” Curry said. “We can’t say enough things about this piece of property.”
The land in question is currently vacant, located directly beside the school bus terminal on Wallings Road. While there have yet been no details regarding the number of units Places for People hopes to construct on the site, the organization has confirmed it will be made up of one and two bedroom apartments.
The project will be partially funded through a soon to be announced community bonds financing program, which the organization hopes to launch in the spring of 2021. This, in essence, will allow local residents to invest in the improvement of their own community, Curry says.
“This is a new way of raising money, one that the community is directly involved with,” Curry said. “This will be a big boon, not only for us, but for the community in general to learn about this alternate source of funding.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts, Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy and Ward 2 Coun. Larry Clarke have spent a considerable amount of time in recent months working with the leadership team at Places for People to come up with a proposal to bring to the rest of council. Kennedy says the municipality’s infrastructure committee identified housing as a “major issue” in 2019, and that council collectively were committed to moving forward on this project to help bridge gaps that currently exist in the community.
While the team at Places for People will now get to work on a solid proposal for the site, Curry says all the key players for a potential build are already in place. Over the past six months the organization has assembled a design team that includes an architect, engineer, and multiple
“We are aware of what it’s going to take to develop this property. For two years we have been looking at different places, had some disappointments, but we have never stopped [pushing forward],” Curry said. “We already have draft plans and ideas for this type of development, but we are also aware that studies [we carry out] during the planning process will inform us of the best way to develop the property.”
She continued, “We have no desire to overbuild. We believe everybody needs a bit of green space in their lives. … As well, we are all about affordable housing. If [the community’s mid- to low-incomefamilies] can’t afford it, there’s no point in building it.”
Curry recognized there are likely to be some stumbling blocks her organization will have to overcome in the weeks and months ahead, speaking directly to challenges relating to regulations around water supply, but noted she and her team will work alongside Dysart staff to ensure all the necessary prerequisites for development are met.
Mayor Roberts expressed her belief that this development was “very exciting news” for Dysart, Places for People and Haliburton County.
“We don’t have a lot of buildable properties, but right away [our infrastructure committee] identified this lot as an ideal place for some housing. This is really exciting news that we’re going to be partnering with Places for People and moving forward with this. We all have a desire to make sure there is affordable housing, and rental options for people to live, and live safely, comfortably and with dignity in our community,” Mayor Roberts said.
Coun. Clarke believes this potential development could also provide a much-needed boost to the local business sector.
“We’ve been very stressed up here [housing wise] with COVID-19, and the migration of people substantially reduced the rental [market] and available housing for people to come in and do jobs. Talk to any business in town – there’s no place for them to be able to house staff even if they wanted to hire someone,” Coun. Clarke said. “This is a critical ailment for this community, and I couldn’t be more pleased that [Places for People have] taken on this initiative to support our community.”
After Council voted in favour of essentially donating the land towards this development, Mayor Roberts stated the next step would be to form a subcommittee that would see herself, Deputy Mayor Kennedy, Coun. Clarke and municipal staff work alongside representatives from Places for People to create an official memorandum of understanding between the two parties, and move forward on tackling issues such as land rezoning, water agreements and planning proposals together.