THUNDER BAY – An Indigenous organization is one step closer to acquiring city-owned land to build a 20-unit youth supportive housing complex.
Thunder Bay city council on Monday night approved gifting a parcel of property on South Junot Avenue adjacent to the Superior North EMS headquarters to Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services to build a transitional home for Indigenous youth.
The land, which had been declared surplus by the city, had been valued at $220,000 and the project to build the 20-unit facility is pegged at $3.6 million.
“Not only is this something we very much need in terms of housing for homeless youth but from a financial point of view this is a bargain,” Coun. Paul Pugh said.
“For $220,000, we’re going to get 20 one-bedroom units. You just don’t see this kind of thing. At the same time there is no responsibility from the city for the administration of this property. From all respects this is a great thing.”
The city’s most recent point in time count, conducted earlier this year, found that two-thirds of the 474 people experiencing homelessness were Indigenous and 41 per cent of all respondents were under the age of 34.
Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services officials had appeared before council in June after identifying four city-owned properties that had been declared surplus that it saw as a potential fit. The organization has already built similar housing developments across Northern Ontario in communities including Dryden, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
The supportive housing facility will have programming provided by the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre.
The organization had identified the Junot Avenue property as one of four potential locations where the city owned land that had been declared surplus.
Coun. Joe Virdiramo questioned whether the Junot Avenue site was the right location, given its proximity to the Windsor Street area that has had multiple gang-related incidents over the last few months.
“The difference with this facility, because it is supportive housing, that means there’s staff on site and the likelihood of those gangs getting access into this facility is pretty remote, compared to other residences in that area,” Coun. Iain Angus said.
The approval is contingent upon securing architect and engineering reports, the balance of the project funding being secured from senior levels of government and the rezoning of the land.
The city last year had granted the former Grandview Lodge building, which had been available for sale, to be converted into the new Matawa Learning Centre.
Council also approved a contribution of $108,000 to Magnus Theatre for the third phase of their restoration project, which covers half of the cost.
“They came to the heritage advisory committee several times to make sure what they’re doing at that building with the renovations to bring it up to modern standards are still compliant in keeping with the historical context of the building,” Hebert said.
Both applications came through the city’s community partnership funding policy.