North Bay City Council has lifted the Holding Zone designation from the property known as 1040 Brookes St., and the fate of the planned three-storey affordable housing development — to be built on the vacant former schoolyard land west of the existing Indigenous service hub — containing dozens of units will go to a vote on June 28.
"Back in the fall, we approved a rezoning for this property (see map above) in order to develop affordable housing units," said Coun. Dave Mendicino — who also serves as the Chair of the Nipissing District Housing Corporation that would operate the proposed housing development. "There was an outstanding traffic study that needed to be done; a noise and acoustic study; and, a service capacity study, they all came back without any concerns."
The NDHC is a subsidiary of the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board. In last fall's committee discussions, Tyler Venable, the community projects planner for DNSSAB maintained the Brookes Street property is "well-positioned to provide additional affordable housing units in the City of North Bay."
He added, "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."
With Council's final approval, Mendicino indicated the NDHC Board "will proceed with making decisions on how to develop this property for affordable housing units."
Several neighbours living in the area objected to the proposal. Their concerns include increased traffic, the new building not matching the character of the neighbourhood, and property values.
In November 2021, a rezoning of 1040 Brookes St. was approved by Council and placed in a Holding Zone until certain conditions were met. Once that restriction is removed, it would permit the construction of the new apartment building.
According to the staff report, "When the By-law was passed, a Holding Zone restriction was put in place to allow the property owner to provide studies to more closely examine certain areas of concern that were raised through the rezoning process. These concerns pertained to parking, infrastructure capacity and an acoustic study (due to the property’s proximity to the Ontario Northland rail line).
Three studies were prepared by qualified third-party consultants with the following recommendations:
- Traffic Study: No concerns, no improvements needed as a result of this development.
- Noise and Acoustic Study: No concerns. The owner should provide warnings of potential noise and potential expansion of rail operations within rental agreements or future sale agreements.
- Service Capacity Study: No concerns.
These studies were reviewed and accepted by City staff, allowing for the removal of the Holding Zone.
Affordable housing remains in short supply and these few dozen units on Brookes Street will merely put a dent in the need for several hundred more in the district. Even as the real estate market shows some signs of stabilizing, prices remain high and inventory is scarce. Those seeking affordable units are being priced out of homeownership and face a competitive rental market. Meanwhile, building trends have skewed away from affordable housing developments, a possible by-product of the continued moratorium on development charges in the City of North Bay.
Construction activity rose across all sectors in 2021, with residential experiencing the largest increase, accounting for $78.4 million of the record year-end total of nearly $153.5 million. According to figures from the City, in 2021 there were 245 new dwelling units built: 86 single-detached dwellings, 138 multi-residential units, 10 semi-detached units, nine secondary units and two duplexes.