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Committee recommends affordable housing development as neighbours air concerns

'Creating affordable housing close to the core and close to existing transportation routes — that's already on serviced property — is good planning and good policy'
2021 10 19 Dr. MacDougall Development Brookes Street (Turl)
The Nipissing District Housing Corporation apartment building would be located on this parking lot west of the Indigenous hub, on the former Dr. MacDougall school property.

A new 41-unit apartment building to be located on the property of a former public school will proceed to the construction phase once all stipulations under the City of North Bay's site plan control are fulfilled but the proposal encountered opposition along the way.

The application for the rezoning originated with the Nipissing District Housing Corporation, a subsidiary of the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board. The North Bay City Council committee level recommendation to proceed with the development came at a special planning meeting, Monday.

Tyler Venable, the community projects planner for DNSSAB told committee members the Brookes Street property is "well-positioned to provide additional affordable housing units in the City of North Bay."

Venable observed several studies highlight a housing shortage. "In North Bay's Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, it states the need to increase the supply of affordable housing, transitional, and supportive housing. 

"In fact, homelessness and affordable housing were noted as top-five main issues affecting safety and well-being in the public survey. 

"There is a need for affordable housing that can be pointed out through the current rental vacancy rate, 2.3 per cent — generally, anything below 3 per cent can indicate a housing shortage."

According to the associated report from Senior Planner Peter Carello, "both the City’s Official Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement each encourage municipalities to facilitate the development of this type of housing."

Coun. Ed Valenti expressed concerns about the rezoning of the property due to the increased volumes of people and traffic that would result and was later the only dissenting vote.

"We do need housing units but under the Planning Act, the property is the focus of the application. Do we not concern ourselves with the spirit of the Official Plan?" Valenti asked. "We are seeing the area in the whole downtown core is getting more dense and populated and that just seems to be going against the spirit of what the pandemic is telling us about why people are coming to North Bay."

The proposed three-storey Brookes Street development on what was once Dr. MacDougall school  — to be built on the vacant former schoolyard land west of the existing Indigenous service hub — faced several objections from potential future neighbours. 

Full copies of the correspondence with the public on the development can be found here. Find below a general summary of those concerns:

  • Traffic: Concerns about the volume of traffic that would be generated by the proposed apartment building means the property will be placed in a “Holding” zone until a traffic study is completed.
  • Affordable housing/tenants: There were objections to the new residents being renters and their income status. In accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, City staff does not consider the issue of ownership or individuals’ income level in the evaluation of zoning by-law amendments.
  • The character of neighbourhood: Specific concerns regarding noise, the height of the building and traffic are all to be addressed through the required studies and mitigating recommendations to be implemented through the site plan control.
  • Property value: This is not a land-use matter and is not considered as part of the evaluation of applications made under the Planning Act. "There have been numerous studies from different jurisdictions that have examined the question of the effect of affordable housing on property value. The significant majority of this research shows no particular effect on property values." 
  • Height: A three-storey structure will not be outside the character of the neighbourhood, according to staff. A four-storey limit will be implemented.
  • Greenspace: Neighbours are concerned about losing the greenspace in the area. The subject lands are private property and do not have any environmental constraints that would preclude the development of these lands and the property has not been identified for future park requirements in the City’s draft Parks Master Plan.

"When the applicant has met all the requirements of the holding zone — the traffic, the servicing, and the acoustic study — Planning will write a report stating to Council that this has been done and how it's been done. We would then come back to City Council to remove the holding zone," and for the final approval, advised Carello.

In his remarks on behalf of NDHC, Rick Miller of Miller & Urso Surveying Inc. highlighted the shortage of affordable housing in North Bay.

"Creating affordable housing close to the core and close to existing transportation routes — that's already on serviced property — is good planning and good policy," he stated.

Miller added the studies required are standard for this type of development and the objections of neighbours would be addressed with their implementation.

"In terms of the development of the property, landscaping, fencing — those types of things that have been mentioned by presenters — these will all be dealt with through the site plan control agreement that would have to be entered into with the City prior to the start of any construction," to meet the criteria of the City, Miller observed.