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EDCL requests DC deferral from council

Elmira District Community Living is hoping Woolwich council can find it in their hearts – and their budget – to defer development charges on their affordable housing project currently under construction on McGuire Lane.

The building will contain six one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit. The development charge is $21,390.

Greg Bechard, executive director of Elmira District Community Living told council as they met on Monday that since 2003 they’ve built $5 million worth of affordable supportive housing in Elmira.

The housing provides affordable housing and support to 27 adults and has been created through the partnership of Elmira District Community Living, the housing corporation, and the region of Waterloo. They’ve received no money from the provincial government for any of the housing they created. Of the $5 million worth of the housing they built, about $1.4 million of that was provided by the region, and the rest was fundraised.

“We’re a small group, a board of five and one employee and that’s me. We’re a busy and active group and $21,000 is a lot of money for us to raise,” Bechard said.

He asked for a deferral of the development fees for the building and also the remaining two buildings that are proposed to be developed on that site. They completed the first building of the four proposed last year and seven people live there.

“With respect to development fees, the region forgives our development fees through a grant. The development fees for this building will be around $66,000, so we expect a return of that money. The development cost from the township will be about $21,500, so if you extrapolate that over the three remaining buildings that’s $64,500 that we’ll have to fundraise,” Bechard said.

He noted that since the money for the housing is either money from the region derived from federal or provincial funding for housing or donated dollars, it doesn’t seem right for the township to tax this money.

“Housing corporations such as ours do the work of the community and government to create this housing and council could help by deferring these charges and subsequent charges for the remaining houses,” Bechard said.

They hope to take occupancy the end of October, beginning of November for the building currently under construction. The remaining two buildings will depend on fundraised dollars and money from the region.

“The first building that we built that opened in November of 2015 the region gave us $760,000 of a $1.3 million cost to build and then we fundraised and found the balance of the money ourselves. On this current building the region gave us $300,000 and we’re having to raise the remaining $800,000 for this building. We won’t be progressing for any other buildings until this building is paid for and we have some money in the bank from fundraising for the balance of the project and we have a continued partnership from the region,” Bechard said.

All of their buildings are debt-free.

He noted they came to council with a request for exemption or a grant back of development charges on a different building in 2009, but were denied by the council at the time. Deferral wasn’t discussed as an option then.

Coun. Scott Hahn asked Bechard if they were looking for an exemption or a deferral. Bechard confirmed he had discussed a deferral with staff.

Bechard mentioned he also spoke with a mayor in a different municipality who traditionally deferred development charges for similar organizations, like Habitat for Humanity.

Coun. Hahn asked how EDCL would pay back the development charges if council agreed to defer them for 25 years.

“The corporation itself does make a profit obviously because we do pay our own way, we don’t get any support from government, so typically those profits or revenues after cost would be put away to replace furnaces, roofs, etcetera. There is money available, but other than that it would be fundraised dollars, donated money,” Bechard replied.

Coun. Mark Bauman said he wasn’t ready to make a decision based on Bechard’s presentation alone. He requested a staff report to get perspective on what other municipalities are doing.

Coun. Murray Martin wasn’t ready to jump on board right away.

“The delegation said it’s a lot of money for them to fundraise. Well I’ll tell you another thing, it’s a whole lot of money for us to overlook and I really wonder where it’s going to take us down the road,” Martin said, mentioning other similar affordable housing projects could come asking for the same treatment.

Coun. Hahn said he’d like council to move forward with the project and help the people who are trying to improve the community.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan agreed.

“We look at our future assessment growth and we’re expecting unprecedented growth over the next 15 years. I think this is an opportunity for council to show that we’re willing to work with these community groups.”

Council made a motion to give staff more direction and council will revisit it at their next meeting.

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