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Dec. 5, 2019 | Thursday
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Developer cancels affordable housing project planned in Virgil
A photo illustration depicts an affordable housing complex that developer Rainer Hummel was planning to build in Virgil. (Supplied)

A NOTL developer says he is cancelling plans to build affordable rental units in Virgil, just three weeks after unveiling the proposal.

Rainer Hummel of Hummel Properties Inc. announced his decision in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

“We thought we would get ahead of it. We thought it would be a good initiative for the town and we thought, ‘Well, let’s pitch this,' ” he told The Lake Report in an interview. “And that was a mistake.”

Hummel introduced the plan at a town council meeting on May 13.

The project called for two 40 five- or six-storey buildings on a portion of a 16-acre property in Virgil. There would be 40 units in each building with 20 per cent of the units being considered affordable housing. Those 16 units would have monthly rents of $1,260. Hummel’s project was going to be built under the federal government's National Housing Strategy.

In a story published in The Lake Report on May 30, a housing advocate for the Region of Niagara questioned whether the Virgil project would help NOTL's "most vulnerable" residents.

After the article appeared, Hummel said he became concerned with some of the negative feedback. He said he didn't discuss his concerns with anyone from the town or the region prior to deciding to withdraw his proposal.

“There’s no profit in this, there’s no way to make money on this. If we’re doing this, it’s because it’s something positive for the community,” he said. “But to waste a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of staff time based on the messaging we heard, it’s not going to work.”

Lord Mayor Betty Disero’s comments concerned him the most, he said, adding that he met with the mayor of Pelham, where the developer is also proposing to build rental accommodations, and the meeting was “wonderful.“

Disero previously told The Lake Report she had two concerns with Hummel’s proposal. One is that the developer was asking for “quite a lot” from the town in the form of tax breaks and reduced development charges. Disero also wanted to know what Hummel planned to do with the portion of the 12.5 acres that is designated as employment lands.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she was surprised Hummel didn't have more faith n the process and the issues she addressed with his proposal were about the comprehensive look of the project and trying to protect the taxpayer.

"I think if he would've decided to go through a process with us, there may have been a chance for some favourable outcome," she told The Lake Report. "But he's now taken that away. So, I'm hoping if we can come up with a model that would be sufficient for future applications, we can use it. And create some affordable housing in Niagara-on-the-Lake."

Hummel said he doesn’t know what exactly he will build on the 3.5 acres of residential land where the affordable house project was planned. Because the site is close to Crossroads Public School, he said he might build a condominium townhouses or a single-family homes for young families there.

For the rest of the property, the developer said he will wait until new provincial legislation is passed, which is expected to ease restrictions on development. 

Meanwhile, Hummel said he will continue with his affordable housing project in Pelham.

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