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City donates land for affordable housing project

The proposal for a 124-unit development is being led by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services
A parcel of land north of J.V. Bonhomme Boulevard the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS) is eyeing for a 124-affordable housing development.

A new affordable housing development could on its way. 

The City of Timmins is giving an in-kind donation of land to Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services for a 124-unit affordable housing development. Timmins council approved it at its Sept. 26 meeting. 

If the development isn't started by July 1, 2026, the land will be returned to the city, said director of growth and infrastructure Scott Tam. 

The 7.2-acre property is on Daigeneault Drive north of J.V. Bonhomme Boulevard, which is off of MacLean, past Grace Bible Chapel and Scout Rock Trail. The property is valued at just over $40,000.

While the overall price tag of the development wasn't shared at the meeting, CAO Dave Landers said the municipal commitment is about five per cent of the total project costs. That commitment can be a mix of land donation and in-kind contributions to the OAHS.

The property is adjacent to an area that the city has been trying to tender for development, said Landers.

"Hopefully this will help spur that development through that area, but this is the Melrose Heights area so it’s something that we have looked at and brought to market a couple of times,” he said during the meeting. 

For the proposal, the OAHS is the property owner and CGV Builders is the design-build contractor. The Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) is also providing in-kind support.

OAHS is looking to build two separate, three-storey buildings. Each would have 62 affordable housing units.

Coun. Lorne Feldman wants to see more affordable housing, and other housing developments, in the city. He asked if future developers would be eligible for a similar contribution.

"This is positive, I’d like to see more of, but I also want it to be seen by the public as a fair and equitable process that maybe there are other potential developers that would say we’d be interested because we see the city as very committed to this,” he said at the meeting. 

Municipalities can incentivize affordable housing "without the risk of bonusing," said Landers. 

"In the event that we’re offering up free land in different situations, each one of those I think would have to be reviewed and come back through a lawyer to council. This particular situation, the funding that the OAHS will access requires a municipal contribution and that will give them the funds that they require in order to move forward with full affordable housing,” he said. 

Coun. Steve Black, who said it's an "excellent project", wants the city to have a policy on land donation so that there is a clear process if other organizations are interested in similar developments.

He noted that some other approaches to spur housing developments in the city haven't been successful.

“Maybe this is another one where we can level the playing field officially and say we support these types of projects and we’re willing to consider this for any other partners in the community that want to come forward and develop large housing developments in the community,” said Black.

Supportive of having residents being able to provide feedback in the process, he also suggested having an opportunity for public feedback.

Mayor Michelle Boileau responded, saying that the item at the meeting was for the land donation. 

She said there will be other planning approvals and zoning amendments needed that will be brought back to council.

So there will be ample opportunity for both council and the public to provide some input into what a development of that land can potentially look like,” she said. 

Whether or not the units would generate tax dollars for the municipality was also a concern. 

“In other units around town, Ontario Aboriginal housing does pay property tax,” said Landers.