The future of the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation remains in limbo with less money from the town, no land, and a building project that failed to launch.

At its committee of the whole meeting on June 26, The Blue Mountains council voted to reduce the total amount the town is willing to lend the corporation from $1.2 million to $800,000. With the housing corporation having already spent $715,000 and incurred another $35,000 in interest on the loan, the move effectively gives the corporation approximately $50,000 to continue to operate for the next year.

Council also decided to stop charging interest on the loan retroactive to May 31, 2023 and voted to rescind a motion that directed staff to transfer ownership of the property at 171 King Street, the site of the intended Gateway attainable housing project, to the housing corporation.

The committee decisions will come to council’s regular meeting on July 10 for final approval.

Without an attainable housing project moving forward at 171 King Street the future for the housing corporation is up in the air.

The moves approved by council will essentially buy the town a year’s worth of time to figure out the future of the housing corporation. Town staff will be working with the corporation’s board to determine next steps for the organization in light of the town’s plans to develop a comprehensive housing needs strategy.

report from CAO Shawn Everitt about the loan agreement between the town and the housing corporation generated a wide-ranging discussion that consumed close to two hours of the committee’s time. In turn, the discussion led to the three separate resolutions coming forward to set the town’s direction on the housing corporation for the next 12 months.

Everitt told council the $50,000 would be enough money to “maintain the existing corporation” and allow the housing corporation to continue to fund the one attainable rental unit it operates.

The CAO also explained to council that the loan agreement between the town and the housing corporation still requires the corporation to repay the loan when the loan agreement expires in July 2024. However, Everitt said the reality is that it’s becoming more and more unlikely that the town will be able to recover that money.

Everitt said the loans to the housing corporation were made on the premise of an attainable housing project proceeding at the Gateway site. He said with the request for proposals/bids process failing to attract a builder, the ability of the housing corporation to recover the funds has been greatly diminished.

“$715,000 in a year is going to be a tough amount of revenue to generate to get that paid back,” said Everitt. “The attainable housing corporation may not be in position to pay us back.”

The resolution to limit the total loan to $800,000 passed in a 5-2 vote, with councillors Gail Ardiel and Alex Maxwell opposed.

Ardiel said the Gateway project had failed and she didn’t want to see any more money spent.

“They haven’t fulfilled what they said they were going to do,” said Ardiel. “I’m not very pleased. I wouldn’t even go to the $800,000. The community is worried about what’s going to happen with that land. I don’t want to spend too much more money on this.”

Mayor Andrea Matrosovs said it wasn’t appropriate to cut off the corporation before a plan for the future was in place.

“We need to try to keep the corporation a floating entity until we decide what it is we’d like them to do,” said the mayor. “At the end of the day, (council) and the attainable housing corporation are trying to solve a community challenge.”

The resolution to rescind the council direction to transfer the property at 171 King Street to the housing corporation also passed in a 5-2 vote. Matrosovs and councillor Shawn McKinlay, who are the council representatives on the corporation’s board, urged caution on the matter and expressed concerns the move could have serious consequences. Both also expressed reservations about rescinding the direction without input from the housing corporation’s board.

“I want to ensure we don’t trigger a cascading effect,” said McKinlay.

Matrosovs said rescinding the direction could have financial implications for the housing corporation.

“We’re hanging on the attainable housing corporation this requirement to fulfill that loan, while at the same time rescinding that direction to staff,” said Matrosovs.

The majority of council disagreed.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to start fresh here,” said Coun. Alex Maxwell.

Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon said rescinding the direction did not mean council could not consider transferring the King Street property or another property to the housing corporation at a later date if the situation changes.

“I don’t see that as the death of the attainable housing corporation,” said Bordignon.

Council unanimously passed the third resolution to consider the future of the housing corporation during the process to develop a comprehensive housing needs study.

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 27, 2023 at 11:00

This item reprinted with permission from   Collingwood, Ontario
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