The placing on hold of a planned connector road won’t stop any of the development currently in the works for Breslau. It’s a list that includes the eastward expansion of the Thomasfield Homes subdivision, more central growth courtesy of Breslau Properties and the next phase of the Empire Communities subdivision in the south end of the village.
Both Thomasfield and Empire have existing subdivisions on the go, with new phases on the books, while Breslau Properties recently sold their subdivision land in central Breslau to Toronto-based Madison Group.
“Empire and Thomasfield are both under way, obviously, thriving out there. They’re going full steam ahead. The market’s great and they’re trying to keep up, working with our staging. We’re seeing that growth happening, and we expect that to continue,” said Jeremy Vink, Woolwich’s manager of planning, of the growth in Breslau, which allows each developer 75 units per year.
Empire is looking to the next phase of its Riverland subdivision in the south end of town, while Thomasfield has lined up a much larger mixed-use development on lands adjacent to the existing Hopewell Heights subdivision. Along with industrial and commercial properties, the plan would see some 900 to 1,100 homes built, depending on the number of apartments/multi-unit buildings.
Breslau Properties is proposing several hundred homes on properties located at 33 and 37 Mader’s Lane, vacant lands at the end of Mader’s Lane, 118 Menno Street, 231 Woolwich Street South and vacant lands on the south side of Menno Street. The western part of a connector road from Dolman to Fountain street will be built by the developer, the Madison Group., while the eastern portion now on hold would link to the new Thomasfield subdivision.
“Thomasfield is developing, and those lands there right now. They’re split from the previous phase of Thomasfield subdivision by the Hopewell Creek in that environmental feature, so they’re kind of split from the rest of Breslau right now,” said Vink of the need for a connector road, noting none of the new development is contingent on that road.
In fact, it’s full speed ahead given the need and demand, says the president of Thomasfield Homes.
“We’re just having a tough time keeping up with the sales volumes that we’ve experienced over the last couple of years, trying to stay within our limit of 75 homes a year,” said Thomas Krizsan. “We’ll be starting a condo project in the new year, I think 104 units, in Breslau, which will be a little bit more affordable-type housing.”
Increasing the supply should also help with the affordability issue, he added, noting bringing more developable land online is a priority.
“The region is trying to justify bringing more lands in the urban boundary, which they desperately need because there’s no way you can meet all your requirements for the growth that Waterloo Region is supposed to experience in infill and intensification without the aid of some greenfield projects.”
That sentiment was echoed by Paul Puopolo of Polocorp, the planner for Breslau Properties.
“Here we are in the middle of an affordability crisis, and we can’t get the stuff out there – we’re backed up,” he said. “My colleagues in the profession should be working twice as hard to speed up the planning process, but they’re not.
“Supply is not an issue, I hear some people say – ‘What do you mean supply is an issue?’ Of course it is now, undoubtedly, and getting approval is a big issue too, a major issue.”
Provincial policy that focuses on density and infilling over traditional suburbs has its merits, the developers agree, but don’t recognize the realities of the market.
“If you’re in your 30s, and you’d have a couple of children, it’s kind of hard to raise them on the 17th floor in an 800-square-foot condo,” said Krizsan. “They want a backyard and a little bit of space. And there’s just not enough of these types of housing products that are available – that’s why we’ve seen the huge escalation in prices.”
“Not everybody wants to raise a family in a 500- or 600-square-foot condo. So it’s going to be a challenge over the next 20 to 30 years as this region develops to still provide affordable areas for people to live,” said John Rose, president of Breslau Properties.
The pandemic has underscored that issue, with a migration from areas such as the GTA and other urban centres in favour of smaller-town living as people seek out more space because they’re spending more time at home. Affordability and traditional single-family homes are an attraction for those working from home if they no longer have to commute to larger centres.
“This pandemic has caused revival in rural Ontario. Places like Palmerston are building out, places like Arthur and Grand Valley. These smaller places are actually doing very well as far as providing housing stock,” said Krizsan.
“A lot of the people that we’ve talked to, they said ‘I’ve worked at home now for almost two years, and it’s worked out OK. You know what, if I have to go into the office for a couple days a week, it’s OK if I live a little further away.’ The perception of things has changed. People are moving further out to these smaller communities for a better lifestyle and more affordable housing.”