At the recent Municipal election, there was a lot of talk about the need for affordable housing in Cobourg. Council seems supportive but now Balder Corporation is asking for tangible support from the Town so they can get financing of almost $9M from CMHC. They want to build a four storey 60 unit apartment block at 315-325 University Avenue West but to get financing, they have to obtain “concessions from any level of Government”. Since the province is unlikely to be supportive, they are asking Cobourg. It does not have to be a large amount – in fact they do not specify an amount but leave it to council to decide. The subject will come up at the next Committee of the Whole meeting on February 19 – the recommendation by staff is to refer a decision to budget deliberations.
Need for Rental Housing
In their correspondence to the Town, Balder points out that
- Northumberland County has not had a vacancy rate of over 3% since 2010, and, in 2017, it had a rental vacancy rate of 1.2%
- Cobourg’s vacancy rate has dropped from 1.3% in 2017 to 0.4% in 2018. Furthermore, during the same time period as above Cobourg has seen a net decrease of nine private market rental units.
- CMHC Financing is available for “purpose-built rental apartments that offer affordable rents, accessible units, greater energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which can demonstrate long term financial viability without operational subsidies.”
The building proposed would be on 315-325 University West which is West of William Street and on the south side opposite the empty old Home Hardware site. It would have 15 bachelor units, 35 one bedroom and 10 two bedroom units. There would be one level of underground parking with the balance above ground. Heating would be geothermal (also called Ground source heat pump) and the building would be both accessible and highly energy efficient. The building is intended to address the shortage of affordable housing but will not have subsidized rents. These features are required by the CMHC Financing initiative.
Three or more of the following are required:
- Concessions on property taxes
- Concessions on levies
- Waiver of development cost charges or other provincial/municipal fees
- Expedited Approvals
- Waiver of community amenity contributions
Balder points out that current taxes on the properties are $11,000 and with a 60 unit apartment, these would go up significantly.
Their specific recommendations for possible concessions are:
- waiver of property taxes (for example, for a number of years deemed appropriate by council),
- expedition of the development process,
- deferral on development fee(s)
- waiver of application fee(s) and levies
This project is not in the County’s mandate because it’s not subsidized so after all the rhetoric during the election it’s hard to imagine the Council denying all possible concessions.
Update 19 Feb 2019
Balder has now withdrawn their request so it is no longer on the Agenda. They will be re-submitting later in the year. Because of this, their correspondence has been removed. Watch for a new post at a future date.
Update – 12 March 2019
Balder have resubmitted their application and it will be decided at the Budget review meeting on March 14. Download their application letter here: Correspondence from Balder Corporation – 6 March 2019