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Official Plan changes pave way for affordable housing

Council votes unanimously in favour of deputy mayor motion to adjust zoning to mixed use under the new Official Plan for three town-owned properties to make it easier for affordable housing to be built on lands in the future
Apartments at 45 Birch Street, one of two buildings known as the Johnson Trust apartments.

While the big show on Monday night may have been a presentation on the Terminals revitalization, another decision by council the same night counted as a major step forward toward getting more affordable housing built in Collingwood.

On March 27, council voted unanimously in favour of supporting the affordable housing task force’s recommendation to adjust the zoning under the new Official Plan for land containing three town-owned properties – 7882/7888 Poplar Sideroad, 201 Ontario Street and 29/45 Birch Street – which would make it easier to build affordable housing on those sites in the future should the town decide to do so.

“This simply provides a greater opportunity in the future for any of those three properties to be developed for an affordable housing initiative,” said Doug Linton, chair of the affordable housing task force, in an interview following the meeting.

“It doesn’t mean anything is going to happen imminently. It’s simply setting the stage for a future opportunity,” he said.

The affordable housing task force was formed in 2021 and was tasked with informing council on a variety of matters relating to affordable housing, including making recommendations on how to deal with town-owned lands, make recommendations on local planning policies, as well as grant/funding opportunities for affordable housing development.

In November 2021, the task force released its report covering how the town could address the crisis, with 53 specific recommendations made as part of that report.

One of those recommendations was for the town to provide the task force with a list of town-owned land that could be suitable for future development of affordable housing, and that those properties should be designated under the new Official Plan for that purpose.

Now, the task force, along with the help of town staff, have short-listed the three properties discussed on Monday as being the best options.

The first property, 7882/7888 Poplar Sideroad,is a currently vacant parcel near the roundabout at Poplar Sideroad and High Street in Collingwood’s south end; 201 Ontario Street is currently home to the Collingwood OPP station and the Leisure Time Club; and 29/45 Birch Street is home to the Johnson Trust Apartments, which had already previously been identified as a town-owned space for affordable housing.

Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer confirmed this week that there are no formal plans to change what already exists on the properties.

Under the new Official Plan designations, all three properties would be in areas zoned to allow mixed uses, which would include low and mid-rise residential uses as well as certain mixes of commercial, office, recreational or public service.

The designation for the Poplar property would also allow a high-rise mixed-use should certain development criteria be met.

“By passing that motion and having those lands designated in the Official Plan, it substantially reduces the amount of time that would be required, if they weren’t designated, to actually get something done,” said Linton. “Without those designations, we’d simply have one more roadblock.”

“We should be clapping. Council is actually moving to get something done,” he said.

Fryer, who put the motion forward and is a new member of the affordable housing task force, spoke during Monday’s meeting about the importance of taking tangible steps toward building affordable housing in Collingwood.

“We’re trying to deal with this crisis and move things forward,” said Fryer.

Coun. Deb Doherty, who also sits on the task force, said municipalities across Ontario are struggling with the housing crisis.

“This is truly affirmative action forward, I think, setting us ahead of the game and allowing us to be poised for any kind of opportunity that comes forward,” she said.

When reached by CollingwoodToday following the meeting, Fryer said it was important for council to vote on the change as a motion, rather than just sending the comments directly to Official Plan consultant The Planning Partnership.

“Because these three properties are owned by the town, it’s a matter of transparency,” said Fryer. “We felt it should be done in a transparent way.”

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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