Fewer Affordable Units at Balder Development

At the next CoW Council meeting on March 13, Council will be asked to formally approve CIP grants and loans to Balder corporation despite the fact that there are only 4 affordable units instead of the 15 originally planned.  The project on University Ave West (near William St.) has 71 rental units and is now almost fully rented.  According to advertising by Balder (see graphic in resources below), rents start at $1,540 per month for studios with one-bedroom apartments starting at $1,595 (utilities included).   These rents are higher than initially planned “in response to increased costs associated with the development”. However, according to a report by Cobourg Staff, there are four one-bedroom units which meet the affordable definition used by Cobourg which is $1,259 excluding utilities.

But Balder initially said that there would be 15 affordable units! 

A construction loan for the project has been provided by CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative and they require 15 affordable units. However, “while eleven (11) units no longer meet the definition of affordability as outline by the Town and County, the 15 units still meet the definition of affordability as outlined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)”

The CMHC definition is:

CMHC defines an affordable development as one where “at least 20% of units have rents below 30% of the median total income of all families for the area, and the total residential rental income is at least 10% below its gross achievable residential income.”

The definition used by the Town (and the County) is:

“Affordable” rental housing is defined as “the least expensive of:

a) a unit for which the rent does not exceed 30% of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
b) a unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area. See table in Resources below.
A moderate-income household is defined as a household with an income in the lowest 60% of the income distribution for renter households for the regional market area.

The four “affordable” units have their rent fixed at “below $1,259/month” (presumably plus a fee for utilities), “while the remainder of the rents may fluctuate in response to changes in the rental market”.

All units in the development include Heat, Water & Hydro which are valued at $100/month – see table in Resources.

Staff are recommending that a bylaw be approved to implement the grants and Loans.

The grants and loans by the Town to Balder are:

  • A 10-year deferral of the $547,263 Development Charges as well as a waiver of the approximate $110,600 in interest for those 10 years. This was approved in 2019.
  • Funding under the 2021 Affordable and Rental Housing CIP
    • A grant of $111,863 under the Building Fees Program,
    • A grant of $16,050 under the Planning Fees Program,
    • A $10,000 grant and $50,000 loan under the Sustainability Program,
    • A $10,000 grant and $50,000 loan under the Universal Design Program.

For more detail, see Staff recommendations on 2021 CIP Intake Grants – download from Resources below. This document was presented at the 6 Sept 2022 CoW Council meeting.

Rationale for approval

Statement in Staff Report

While Balder’s intent was to meet the Town of Cobourg’s definition of affordability as well, increased costs over the past two years has made that difficult to do without compromising the overall financial viability of the development.

The CIP program is intended to stimulate the number of rental units available, both affordable and market-rate.

While the outcome differs from the information contained in Balder’s application form, the overall project still meets the objective of providing purpose-built rental housing in Cobourg.

An important clarification is that the development was never intended to be affordable in its entirety. This has been incorrectly assumed in the public realm in the past. The development was proposed as a mix of affordable and market-rent units, which remains the case.

The overall intent of the CIP program continues to be met. [Ed. Note: The application form for CIP says “4 or more units”.]

The total to be approved is $147,914 in grants and $100,000 in loans. Add the previously approved deferral of $548k (effectively a loan) and waiving of interest of $111k (effectively a grant) and the total subsidies by the Town are:

Grants: $148K + $111K = $259K; Loans: $100K + $547K = $647k.

The whole thing is a little confusing but the key point is that only 4 of the 71 units will meet the Town’s definition of affordable.  Compare this to the original promise of 15.  The good news is that the stock of rental units has been increased.

I would guess that since they have already committed to providing grants, Council approval to proceed would be very likely.

Resources

Table of Market rents

If Balder’s rents were to meet the definition of affordability as used by Cobourg, they would need to be as below: (per Cobourg Staff report).

Balder Rents (other than 4 “affordable” units) – per Balder advertising – includes utilities

Unit Size Average Market Rent Maximum Monthly Rent if Utilities Are Included
Bachelor $1,058 $1,158 $1,540 and up
One-bedroom $1,259 $1,359 $1,595 and up
Two-bedroom $1,326 $1,426 $2,350 and up
Three+ bedroom $1,559 $1,659  
Two bedroom & den     $2,690 and up

The four affordable one bedroom units have their rent fixed at “below $1,259/month” (presumably plus a fee for utilities).

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Informed
11 months ago

They get nothing. O . Breach of contract. Let them sue and use their funds to obtain money that they are no longer entitled to. The Town needs to stop bending over!

Gerinator
Reply to  Informed
11 months ago

Agreed. But they won’t sue. They’ll just have conversation with their developer-buddy Doug Ford. He’ll straighten everything out.

Bryan
Reply to  Gerinator
11 months ago

Gerinator & Informed,

The CMHC incentives and likely a federal loan ($15M or so) are conditional on the Town also giving concessions….the CIP loan and grant. So the Town has leverage. There is no need for the Town to sue. The developer stands to loose the incentives.

The question is will the Town stand up and say “no, abide by the original deal, 15 affordable units”

Time will tell.

Eastender
11 months ago

I do realize that when there is an application for planning and land use, these are advertised by the Town. But what happens when there are changes to the
original plans? Does the Planning Dept. consult the public again? And if not, why not?

Dave
Reply to  Eastender
11 months ago

I note no one has come forth to answer your questions with regard to changes to the orginal plan Eastender. That is why I said a review was in order which was spoken against as it was simply a business deal. I think it is important to bring this forth as to whether updates are provided to the Planning Department. As in most situations unforseen circumstances intrude on a four year application and who knew at that time COVID and a very high inflation rate would particularly affect building supplies as well as labour to change an application made in good faith. One blogger stated there had been previous problems with the developer Balder but did not provide any details of past problem – only a statement. There are people contributing on this Blog who have stated they don’t want community centres that are not profit and loss, private funded, a bus service for those without cars and feel the businesses of the community do not offer goods to a price that suits their criteria hence buying on line. Rental housing is desparately needed.

ben
11 months ago
Gerinator
11 months ago

The CIP program is intended to stimulate the number of rental units available, both affordable and market-rate; called for 15 units. Now only 4 being produced. Its a shell game. Developer 1 Town 0.

Last edited 11 months ago by Gerinator
Keith Oliver
11 months ago

When it comes to the provision of more affordable housing, the end result of the Balder project and how it came about, provides a real-time example of how to carry out futures similar projects. I remember long delays by town regulators as to how below ground water conditions were to be dealt with … and time is money.

What we don’t need is the usual disrespectful childish rants found in postings below, such as …

“Is our Council really that stupid?? They seem to think we are.”

“As usual our former Mayor, Council and Planner where in ga-ga land … ”

“Confused Administratin or just plain stupid?”

Referring to the Baldar appartments as “a bait-and-switch project with staff support.”

The blogs that John creates and the postings that result, could be a source of useful information for both decision makers and the public. Polluting them with invective such as found in the examples given here serves to undermine any intelligent discourse.

Last edited 11 months ago by Keith Oliver
Sandpiper
Reply to  Keith Oliver
11 months ago

Where Have I heard that before “Time is Money ”
are you suggesting Make work for Town Employees ?
Or that the Engineering & Planning Dept s are dragging developers
unnecessarily through the Gauntlet of Time & Expense .
Either way I agree But how will this ever come to an end .
With out , outside intervention and review maybe an independent
Overseer of sorts is in Order
Right now the Tax payers are flipping the bill for inexperience
and Not getting what they still have to pay for .

Give me a break
Reply to  Keith Oliver
11 months ago

These are not childish rants ….. just provide the 15 units ….. BTW …. John’s blog helped with our so called “invective” dialogue ….

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
11 months ago

Keith, it is easy for staff and Council to refute all allegations that they are stupid, susceptible to bait and switch, corrupt or otherwise not doing their jobs: Balder can provide 15 affordable units as they originally proposed or Balder can return $647K to Cobourg’s taxpayers and withdraw their application of even more. Otherwise, much of the invective is deserved.

cornbread
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Let us keep an accounting of who folds, those responsible for Cobourg not getting the 15. Then can there be a civil case against those responsible to make up the $ taxpayers have given up.

Dave
Reply to  Keith Oliver
11 months ago

Keith – There was a Blog previously that many commented the Councillors should not be working for minimum wage and the upper echelon of Council was underpaid. They were all for having immediate increases. Now the tone is they are all a bunch of dunderheads! I agree, it is better to state your opinions in appropriate language. The mayor mentioned this stating he would be happy to discuss any issues personally but without vulger language directed at him. I agree with him on that.

One thing is a reality. Getting any kind of rental housing built these last number of years, with condos the thing, new rental housing has been rare. As far as one blogger put that a profit line to a private corporation is not to be considered – only that they stuck to the deal. What a discouragement for further building. Better a review should be done. Is the Town getting fair value and allowing unforseen large cost increases? Did they get value? A cost analysis review should be done. Concessions both sides perhaps. Communications should have been ongoing during build, any other applicant would face the same problem. Or should we leave them, if large increases justified plan change, standing in their underwear? Let us call for a financial review!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave, if the builder’s costs were to have decreased would you favour letting them keep the “excess” profits? Please explain your reasoning.

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

I could give many explanations Ken but too lengthy for here. However If the Town had their project as promised at the stated cost. The Bid reviewed and accepted. However common sense would seem if there are costs over runs I agree they should have been discussed in the building stages, perhaps they were. In this case there should be a review. I am sure you agree there is a great need for rental housing, more than great. To enable this I don’t see it appropriate to leave a Developer standing in his underwear. If the review reveals we have been taken for Huckleberrys then by all means follow through with appropriate measures. I’ll say it again a review is necessarary. Have you not read of the numerous cost over runs in large municipal contracts – they are quite common Ken. Surely they are reviewed as this should be.

Last edited 11 months ago by Dave
Dave
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Additionally Ken the application was placed in 2019. COVID and an exceptional year of Inflation have occurred since then affecting price. An unusual combo. Vehicles, clothes, entertainment, take out all suddenly have gone up as well as bulding materials quite a bit in this period.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave, my thoughts are also lengthy but to summarize:

It is unfair to Cobourg’s taxpayers to expect them to subsidize the construction of rental (or any other type) of housing. Why should the majority’s tax dollars go to benefit a few? We made that mistake years ago regarding Balder.

Yes, there are often overruns in municipal contracts due to incompetence, deceitful “low balling” things in order to garner approval by the tax payers (think Cobourg’s CCC) and many other reasons. That is a topic for another day.

It is customary for contracts to include clauses to deal with events beyond the contractor’s control. If such were not in their supplier contracts then Balder should be having a discussion regarding the career prospects of their staff who approved things. Certainly it is not a concern for Cobourg’s taxpayers.

Sam Westcott
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave, This extra cost is nothing to do with rental rates. Its already built. Building co overruns would already have been funded by the the builder/developer. Development is a a risky business. You gain or lose. That’s the business. Not the renters fault. The rents should be as promised. End of Story.

Last edited 11 months ago by Sam Westcott
Bryan
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave,
However If the Town had their project as promised at the stated cost. The Bid reviewed and accepted.”

There was no bid. No stated cost. No bid accepted. The Towns wasn’t (hasn’t) bought or commissioned anything from Balder.

Balder’s project costs increased, but that is not the Town’s concern. The Town is not responsible for the projects profitability.

Sam Westcott
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Ken when is a deal “is a Deal” ??

Last edited 11 months ago by Sam Westcott
Bryan
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave,
“Let us call for a financial review”

A financial review of what?
Balder is a private sector business. Their profitability on a project is none of the Town’s business. The Town has no right or authority to “review” Balder’s finances.

“Is the Town getting fair value”? The Town hasn’t purchased anything or commissioned Balder to do anything.

As I noted in a prior comment to Kathleen:
this is a new CIP application.
Balder wants the $250K in grants and loans.
The Town wants “affordable” housing units.
The issue is the number of units: Balder has proposed 4, the Residents (the Town??) want 14.

I believe the Town has leverage and therefore a reasonable degree of bargaining power to get what the residents want: 14 “affordable” housing units.

It’s a simple straight forward business negotiation.

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

As pointed out before 2019 was pre-COVID and the extraordinary inflation rate. Costs today everywhere are considerably higher than 2019. A very different scenario of past years. Soltution – as the prior Council saw the project readying for rental why did they not suggest to Balder they provide the affordable units and raise the prices for regular rentals to cover the difference?
Obviously further rental housing is needed. Myself I would like to see multiple projects of regular rentals which would bring the price down as the theory of dollars chasing good bares out.
Sampling of apartments listed today on Kijii
Munro Street – 2 bedroom – $2250 plus all utilities
Dale Road – 2 bedroom – $2100.
Roberts Row – 3 Bedroom $2500 plus all utilities
Densmore Road – 2 bedroom $2080 plus all utilities
Cobourg? – basement apartment $1600 plus 40% of utlities
Cobourg? – 3 bedroom – $2995 utilities included.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave, so you think that Balder’s “affordable” rental units should be subsidized by both Cobourg’s taxpayers and other renters? How will the other renters be able to afford their units?

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

Another solution Ken – the Town puts in process to take the grant back and places a lien on the building or gets a judgement for reimbursement against Balder leaving things as they are. As an aside if these tenants were living elsewhere in the area as per the list I provided they would be paying higher rents than what they pay in this building. Enough Rentals haven’t been built. I am not a lawyer Ken but the above is usually what is done when money is owed. A court process.

Last edited 11 months ago by Dave
Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

I continue to believe that “affordable” housing is best left to the non-profit sector, whose overall goal is to provide real affordable housing, not pocket profits in their own bank accounts.

Give me a break
11 months ago

First off all most folks don’t know the definition of affordable. “ In Canada, housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income.” That would translate to a before tax income for the one bedroom in this complex to be approx $48k. If there was an agreement setting out the number of “affordable units” then why is our Town Lawyer and Council not acting. I was there when the developer made the presentation and as usual our former Mayor, Council and Planner were in “ga-ga” land to hear about the development. Duped again. Was their due diligence and risk analysis completed? Many outside developers have come and gone in Cobourg and have left us with undeveloped promises. The only truly affordable apartments were built with the help of the Province in the past but no longer do so. Maybe our current Mayor, Councillors and “team” can address this soon.

Kathleen
11 months ago

This seems way beyond the understanding of most of Council members. Most will vote to go with staff recommendation and the Mayor will stand alone to vote it down. I hope I’m proved wrong.
If nothing else, I really hope they all agree to defer a vote until a lawyer is consulted.

Bryan
Reply to  Kathleen
11 months ago

Kathleen.

A lawyer isn’t needed. This is a new CIP application.
The issue is clear. Balder wants the $250K in grants and loans. The town wants “affordable” housing. The issue is the number of units: Balder has proposed 4, The Residents (the Town??) want 14.

I believe the Town has leverage and therefore a reasonable degree of bargaining power to get what the residents want: 14 “affordable” housing units.

Prior applications and discussions have all indicated that the number of “affordable” units is 14-17. The profitability of Balder’s project is their concern, not the Town’s. I believe that Balder’s fiscal viability concern is not about the project being unprofitable. Rather, it is about the project not meeting “plan”, the planned profitability.

The documentation indicates that the project still meets CMHC’s requirement to provide 14 “affordable” units. How does Balder meet the CMHC requirements for 14 “affordable” units but can only provide the Town with 4?

Council should reject Balder’s application for $250K in grants and loans in exchange for 4 “affordable” 1br units and advise them that an application providing 14 units, as previously indicated, would be acceptable.

Last edited 11 months ago by Bryan
Sandpiper
11 months ago

Well I think Ben Hit the Nail on the Head about Ethical No More comes to mind and a Refund !
But I don’t think that the Ethics question starts and stops with just the Balder Group .
The statement that– ” clarification is that the development was never intended to be affordable in its entirety. This has been incorrectly assumed in the public realm in the past ”
From what I read here , and was Told / Sold by our Council and Ms Beatty was what everyone else seems to understand what was intended
15 Affordable units and based on the fact that the property is located in Cobourg
all should assume / understand that Affordability is based on Cobourg & Northumberlands
Counties standard of Costs not some where else in Ontario .
If this does not fall under the definition of Scammed I don’t know what would
The Question is who exactly misled the Tax Payers of Northumberland and more so Cobourg .
Is our Council really that stupid ??? They seem to think we are.

Now wait for it —
Their next Balder Project is coming to a Place near you — Second St Cobourg !

Give me a break
Reply to  Sandpiper
11 months ago

Don’t forget that not all the current Councillors and mayor were present when it was addressed …..

Bryan
Reply to  Give me a break
11 months ago

Give me a break,

4 were on the previous Council and at least 2 of the remaining were Cobourg residents

cornbread
11 months ago

Confused Administrations or just plain stupid? This is also how 20 drug dealers and Canada’s biggest drug bust gets run over by the bus. No one is responsible???

Sandpiper
Reply to  cornbread
11 months ago

There is Reasonability and Accountability
you just have to insist on it .
Write your NEW Mayor and CC Municipal Affairs
or you could be just standing about the Bus Stop .

Informed
11 months ago

Doesn’t the Town of a lawyer on retainer? The lawyer determines if this is a breach of contract. Nothing should be done until legal advice is provided.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Informed
11 months ago

You have never Met the Towns Lawyer have you ?
Fight for the Public or Do the Towns Bidding
which way do you think this will go ?

Informed
Reply to  Sandpiper
11 months ago

I don’t actually believe that

Bryan
Reply to  Informed
11 months ago

Informed & Sandpiper,

I tend to agree with Sandpiper on this one.
I have read several reports and opinions rendered by the Town’s lawyers.
Not impressed. Fluffy. Not actionable

Cobourg taxpayer
11 months ago

Well here we go with more bafflegab but the bottom line seems to be the developer was given taxpayers money to provide 15 affordable units and they have not done so. I don’t care if council has committed to providing grants, if the terms of agreement are not met then there should be no more grants and any previously given should be paid back. I believe affordable housing is Nicole Beatty’s baby, well Nicole make sure our tax money is used for the purpose it was meant to be used for.

Dave
11 months ago

Date of application? Was it before the very high inflation based on building prices at that time?What to do when after a very inflated year costs go up?
I guess I am mistaken but I had thought the Studio was advertised at $1595 not $1540 on kijiji.
15 units down to 4? Balder should be asked to submit the building expenses to ensure it is only increased buiding costs that have brought the number of units they could afford to only 4.
With the complete shortage of rental housing at least the stock has been added to in a very tight market but Balder should be required to present the additional building costs to justifiy their inability to meet the promise. The units on Munroe Street which started at $1200 are now at last advertising $1345. A $135. increase which does not match LTA which as it was given development fee subsidies should have kept with the legislated rent control.

Bryan
Reply to  Dave
11 months ago

Dave,
The original application was made in 2019 or earlier, so before the big price hikes
$1540 is the rent Balder posted

It’s not relevant what Balder’s costs are. They are a private sector business and they assume the risks, not the Town. There is no onus on the Town to guarantee/subsidize a developer’s profits. The original deal was 14 “affordable” units in exchange for CIP grants and loans. The Town should hold Balder to this.

See Ben, Ken S and Bryan comments below.

Rent control (LTA) does not apply to recently new builds unless there is a contractual agreement to do so. Munroe St. likely doesn’t have this requirement.

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

Munroe Street received subsidies. Their opening ceremony was attended by the then MP for the area as Federal funds were used. The promise was to build affordable housing – Affordable Market and rent-geared-to-income for the building now with a $135 increase per month. Additionally utilities, parking and if needed a storage locker fee on top.

So you are saying then Bryan Munroe Street you pay the increased costs later after the subsidy and Balder is charging more at opening. So what is the difference when it comes down to it. The other building on Munroe of course charges strictly private market rents starting around $2000 which they are entitled to do and of course without the protection of the LTA as that building is beholding to no one but the builder. It has been a while since they advertised on Munroe so the $135 more is probably higher now.
By the time that project is built at Albert & Division the builder will never be able to stay with the original price, that is if it ever gets built.

Last edited 11 months ago by Dave
ben
11 months ago

One for Sandpiper – is this a case of an ethical developer?

Trish Whitney
11 months ago

Did Council consult a lawyer before they entered this deal? Council should refuse to give them another cent. And though Council thought they might be helping the affordable housing problem, did any resident of Cobourg benefit or is the building filled with people who have just moved here?

Ken Strauss
11 months ago

I agree that the whole situation is confusing.

Comparing the Balder bait and switch coupled with staff support for their balderdash to groceries, it sounds rather like paying for 150 grams of sliced ham and getting only 40 grams. Then store staff tell you that “ham is expensive and at least you got some ham so be happy”.

What a deal! And staff recommends that Balder get another $247,914 of our taxes?

Last edited 11 months ago by Ken Strauss
ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 months ago

I think that they should:

  • get no grant for being duplicitous
  • or get 4/15ths of the grant
Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
11 months ago

Ben, certainly no more money! Perhaps also a breech-of-contract suit to recover the $647K that they previously received and for which they are now refusing to fulfill the agreed terms? Or was there no contract but just an “understanding” among friends?

Bryan
Reply to  ben
11 months ago

Ben & Ken S,

I agree with Ben.

The deal was 14 “affordable units in exchange for the CIP grants & Loans.
Cobourg is not responsible for supporting the profitability of this project.

For me the options are:

  • 14 “affordable” units per the original deal
  • no grant or loans
  • 4/15ths of the grant & loans

The Town may have some leverage on this. the CHMC deal and other fed/prov loans/incentives may be contingent of getting financial support from the Town.

The 1br priced at $1259 is a totally artificial price and makes no sense in a market context. The 1BR is larger than a studio, but a studio is priced at $1540 which is not “affordable”

The issue is further muddied by reference to family incomes. This is not a GRI (geared to income) rental situation, although there is mention of 7 of the “affordable (CMHC) units being offered to the County for their GRI subsidized rent program.
A GRI unit is not “affordable” as the rent is the sum of the County’s subsidy and the “renter’s” payment. Balder will get full price or close to it for these GRI units.

I would like to see a chart showing the affordable rent for the 15 CMHC units, CMHC’s affordable rent thresholds and Cobourg’s affordable rent thresholds.

Dunkirk
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

To provide some further context on local housing ‘affordability’ for seniors: do the math…
-our labour participation rate is now below 60%.
-the national average shows 70% of us have no Defined Benefit or Defined Contribution pension.
-our average age is now 58+ according to the last census.
-the average mthy CPP is $717; the average OAS is $687(total:$1404 month)
the national average RRSP is $142k and TFSA $32k that generate a handful of grocery dollars monthly depending on the investment
-there are currently over 1,000 people on the waiting list locally for ‘affordable housing’.

Unless I am wrong–‘affordable’ for seniors in Cobourg should be about $600/month and that ship sailed back when Stephen Harper froze public service salaries…..You just can’t get there from here….whether you are a developer with good intentions or a Planning Dept trying to pretend you are progressive….

The Legion Condos was supposed to be ‘affordable’ wasn’t it? The condos ended up being sold as investments privately and now rented out at market rates…$2000+….am I wrong?..

ben
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

What happened to the cosy agreement between Cornerstone and their ten ‘affordable’ units?

Bryan
Reply to  ben
11 months ago

Ben,

I have nothing regarding Cornerstone other than I believe, in the original agreement they were to “get” 2 units for their use.

I have not heard anything about 10 units.

Not clear on what you mean by “cozy”?

ben
Reply to  Bryan
11 months ago

The way I saw it was that 10 of the 14 units deemed affordable were going to be allocated to outreach clients of cornerstone.