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Nov. 26, 2020 | Thursday
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Developer John Hawley to build rental housing in Village
The Village sign. (Jessica Maxwell)

John Hawley, developer of the Village subdivision in NOTL, is building 20 rental apartments as an addition to the neighbourhood.

Hawley, who said the development will help diversify housing options in Niagara-on-the-Lake, asked town council to defer development charges for 18 months or until the houses are built and occupied, on Monday during committee of the whole.

Council approved the request, with the condition that staff come back with housing affordibility and diversity criteria for council to use for future deferment requests, and to advise Niagara Region to do the same.

Town treasurer Kyle Freeborn said the deferment would only cost the town the interest it would have made on the money in that time. Coun. Erwin Wiens pointed out the number would be nominal.

Hawley said seven of the apartments are going to be leased to the Shaw Festival as housing for staff and the other units will range from $1,600 per month for a one-bedroom and $2,200 for a two-bedroom.

He said there are a number of challenges building rental housing and that the homes would be "beautiful, elegant buildings" but with "simple elements."

"We couldn't spend money on extravagant additions to them," he said.

"You work back from the rent that you can charge and you work back to see how much you can afford to pay for the building," Hawley explained, adding there had to be cuts to some of the luxury features to make the project financially viable.

"Frankly, we could have sold the site as luxury townhouses and made more money but we wanted at this point in the project to give back to the community and also to add that element to the Village to round it out." 

Council expressed some concern over setting a precedent by waiving development charges, to which Hawley said, "I would suggest that if developers come forward with rental housing, this might be a precedent we would want to set."

He said it difficult and complicated to build affordable rental units. "I certainly would not be coming forward for request if it was for sale housing. There's no need to assist developers with condos or anything for sale."

The conversation among councillors took a brief turn into talking about what affordable housing is, and what sort of rent figure that looked like — but Hawley clarified the development is not traditional government affordable housing, but rather his own effort to build more affordable houses.

Hawley said the development would be three buildings that would resemble "three small mansions."

"These apartments will provide an opportunity for those who work in Niagara-on-the-Lake but cannot afford to purchase a home here," he said.

Construction is set to begin in December and the project would take about a year to complete, with apartments ideally ready to rent in November 2021.

 

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