An information session held at the council chambers on March 13 for those interested in taking advantage of incentives being offered by the municipal sector in order to build more affordable housing showed promise.
The session was held to explain to developers that the Town of Huntsville is offering free land and the waiving of part of the related municipal fees as well as tax incentives in order to get more attainable housing for Huntsville’s most vulnerable population off the ground.
“We’re breaking new ground here,” said Huntsville Councillor Jason FitzGerald, who sits on the Town’s affordable housing committee and is part of the group who will be looking at the proposals the municipality receives. He said there were approximately 16 people in attendance representing developers in some form. “There was some interest from people with very exciting sustainable ideas for this project so I can’t wait to see the actual bids come in and the proposals come in and move forward,” he added.
In terms of the proposals themselves the sky is the limit, said FitzGerald. “There are so many different varieties of housing out there; we have to keep an open mind. Could it be cluster housing? Could it be some rental? There was a discussion about land trusts,” he added. “Traditionally that’s when people come up with great ideas, when they think outside the box.”
He said the impetus behind the project is to offer incentives to developers through the Town and the District of Muskoka in order to make the building of affordable housing more attractive. “Developers are in business to make money and to feed their families… affordable housing doesn’t always hit the mark and that’s why the municipality came up with these potential incentives in combination with the District to get the ball rolling.”
Huntsville CAO Denise Corry was also in attendance. She said there were local developers as well as some from Barrie and the Guelph area.
I think there was a bit of a surprise that there were really no limitations and we kept saying, ‘think big when you submit your proposal’ because that’s what we’re looking for. We want to be innovative. We want to be able to address the housing shortage in Huntsville and they were quite receptive to that. Certainly a lot of the comments that we heard was it was great that Huntsville was doing this and it was the first that they were aware of where a municipality took it upon themselves to initiate this project. It was very well received Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison said he was pleased with the turnout. He said he also let those in attendance know that this would be the first of other projects to follow. “There’ll be more land hopefully available shortly. We’re also looking at community land trusts and some of them may be interested in contributing something to that as well.”
The land the municipality is currently offering is an estimated 2.44 hectare property located on Sabrina Park Drive. Details of the RFP are available on the Town of Huntsville’s website HERE. Applicants have until 12 p.m. on March 31, 2017 to submit their proposals.
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