Construction starts on affordable housing development in Niagara

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of St. CatharinesNiagara Region, and Niagara Regional Housing (NRH) have launched construction at 320 Geneva St. in St. Catharines, with the goal of building more than 80 units of supportive and affordable housing over three phases, pending Regional Council’s final approval on July 20.

“I am excited to see this property moving forward on the goals expressed by both the last term of Council and this term of Council,” said St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe. “It has been a complicated road to get here, but I am confident in NRH’s ability to quickly build the bridge and affordable housing that our community so desperately needs. Let’s get those shovels in the ground.”

In a three-phase project, the cty-owned property that housed recreational staff and has since been demolished, will become a mixture of Bridge Housing, NRH affordable housing (townhouses) and land for private market development.

“The investments we are making into 320 Geneva Street are yet another example of Regional Council’s steadfast commitment to increase the supply of affordable and attainable housing in Niagara,” said Regional Chair Jim Bradley. “Addressing the housing crisis continues to be this Council’s top priority and I want to acknowledge the support of our partners in the provincial government and the City of St. Catharines for making this a reality.

“I look forward to seeing this project move forward in our efforts to serve the most vulnerable in our communities.”

There are currently over 6,600 applicants for affordable housing in St. Catharines alone, over 2,400 of which are families. Since the housing market has grown the way it has in the past number of years, there has been an increased need for affordability.

The property will be sold to NRH for a nominal fee. The property deal and transfer are expected to take place this summer.

“By providing a mix of housing options such as supportive housing and affordable rental units, future tenants will be able to find a housing unit that best meets their needs as well as resources designed to assist them with future opportunities,” said Gary Zalepa, Niagara Regional Housing board chair. “These homes will help to foster a broader sense of community for all future tenants.”

The first phase of the project (Bridge Housing) is envisioned as being a four-storey building featuring 36 Bridge Housing units and 12 supportive housing units. Bridge Building Bridge Housing will free up significant numbers of shelter beds and mitigate the need to invest further in short-term solutions.

Before the end of 2023, a request for proposals (RFP) for the design of this phase is expected to be issued, environmental site assessment work, the award for design and permit/site planning are expected to be completed. An RFP for construction will be issued early in 2024, followed by an award and construction commencing. This phase is expected to be completed by mid-2025.

The second phase of the project (NRH affordable housing – townhouses) would see the construction of 36 affordable housing units. These houses, which are geared to income (30 per cent of gross household income) are envisioned to consist of stacked and back-to-back townhouses.

The environmental site assessment and cleanup of the property is expected to begin in late in 2023 and be completed by the fall of 2024. The RFP and award for design is expected to happen directly after, followed by the RFP and award for construction. Ground is expected to be broken in mid-2025 and be completed in the summer of 2026.

The third phase will include environmental site assessment work and cleanup at the same time as phase two. The third phase, which encompasses approximately 50 per cent of the property, will be marketed and sold by NRH at fair market value to help offset the cost of the other units.


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