PHC redevelopment progresses despite challenges posed by federal funding program

Two properties identified for phase one of redevelopment. But PHC CEO Hope Lee says a recent drop in federal grant funding will lead to higher rents for new tenants.
Tenants at this rent-geared-to-income townhouse complex may soon have to move out to make way for a new development. But PHC says they’ll all be offered new housing. (Photo: Will Pearson)

You’re reading selections from the June 15, 2023 edition of the Peterborough Currents email newsletter, written by Will Pearson. To receive our email newsletters straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Tenants at two PHC properties told their homes will be redeveloped

Tenants at two Peterborough Housing Corporation (PHC) complexes were informed last month that their sites have been selected for the first phase of the PHC’s ambitious redevelopment plan, meaning they could be forced to relocate from their homes once construction gets underway in a couple of years.

If fully realized, the PHC’s redevelopment would see a half-dozen or so rent-geared-to-income (RGI) buildings across the city bulldozed to make way for bigger, denser buildings with more units. The project would proceed in phases, and tenants at 1190 Hilliard Street and 30 Alexander Avenue recently received a letter from PHC informing them that their sites are up first.

Tenants will eventually get to move back — the plan is to rebuild all of the RGI units that get demolished. But their neighbourhoods will feel different: the plan is also to add hundreds of new “affordable” and market-rate units.

But just how affordable will the new “affordable” units be? And what proportion of the new units will have pricey, market-rate rents? That all comes down to funding. And right now, a lack of federal grant funding is holding the project back, according to PHC CEO Hope Lee.

The federal government’s main program for projects like this (and the one PHC plans to apply to) mostly gives out loans. Lee says the loans are helpful, but what is really needed to keep rents low is grant funding. Lee says that in recent years the federal government has reduced the amount of grant funding it offers through the program. At the same time, costs facing would-be developers have risen.

“Based on the current structure, it is impossible to create deeply affordable units without including a large number of market units,” Lee wrote to Currents.

It’s not just a Peterborough problem. The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, which represents community housing providers across the country, stated in January that a decrease in federal grant funding has made it “increasingly difficult — and in some cases impossible — to create affordable housing using the National Housing Strategy programs.”

I can’t help but wonder where our city would be if the PHC plan had progressed more quickly. The idea to redevelop these properties has been floated since at least 2016. Two and a half years ago, city council voted to take control of the project, based on recommendations from a consultant who said shovels could be in the ground as soon as September of 2022.

That hasn’t happened. And in the intervening years, mortgage rates and construction costs have spiked and federal grant funding has become less generous. Did Peterborough miss a big opportunity?

Maybe. But I still think this is the most important initiative underway to address the housing crisis in our community. It’s unfortunate it hasn’t made more progress over the last seven years, but the next best time to move forward with it is right now. I hope the disruptions facing current PHC tenants are kept to a minimum over the next few years, and I hope they get to move into beautiful new housing with friendly new neighbours when all is said and done.

Other Stories to Watch

JACKSON CREEK FUEL SPILL — The cost to clean up the fuel spill in the Jackson Creek outlet to Little Lake has risen to $1.8 million, according to a report that was received by city council this week. The municipally-owned property on Townsend Street adjacent to the creek has been identified as a likely source of the spill. The report states that the City first discovered fuel leaking into Little Lake from the creek outlet on August 22, 2022. But documents obtained by Peterborough Currents last year revealed that the municipality was aware of fuel-contaminated groundwater in the area as early as November, 2021.

ENCAMPMENT SHOOTING — Police announced last week that they have arrested a 33-year-old male suspect in relation to the shooting death of a 36-year-old woman at the Wolfe Street encampment. Police were first called to the encampment at around 2:20 a.m. on June 2 after reports of multiple gunshots, they stated. A victim with gunshot wounds was transported to the hospital where she died, according to police. The accused is facing multiple charges, including first degree murder, uttering death threats, and possession of fentanyl and cocaine for the purposes of trafficking. “We believe this was not a random incident,” police stated.

AIR QUALITY — Environmental publication The Narwhal was on the ground in Peterborough last week to report on the region’s deteriorating air quality as wildfires raged in Québec and Northern Ontario. Read the story here.

These stories and more were featured in our June 15, 2023 email newsletter. To receive these newsletters straight to your email inbox, sign up here. Thanks for reading and take care!


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