A non-profit housing group is planning more growth in Cape Breton Regional Municipality this year.
The Cape Breton Community Housing Association proposes to buy three empty lots on Birch Street from CBRM, where it wants to build a facility for people with mental illness. It would replace two existing group homes.
The agency then plans to turn the existing buildings into affordable housing for the homeless.
The association has already announced plans to build a new 14-bed homeless shelter this year.
Land has been surplus for years
The affordable housing project first came before the municipality’s general committee last year on Nov. 5.
CBRM property manager Sheila Kolanko told council the three parcels of residential land have been declared surplus since at least 2017.
She said the housing association is proposing to pay $1 for the properties, which are assessed at $7,500 each for a total of $22,500.
Kolanko said staff recommended the deal go ahead, because CBRM has received no other offers on the properties and the proposed development fits within the existing land-use bylaw.
The general committee approved the deal unanimously, and ratified it unanimously, at its full council meeting later in November, provided a development permit is issued within a year of the sale and that all costs for the sale and development will be paid by the association.
Local councillor fully endorses deal
Longtime Ashby-area councillor Ray Paruch, whose district includes the Birch Street properties, fully endorsed the proposal in November, calling it a great cause.
“I’ve been around this place for 22 years and I haven’t seen a better package come before council than this one, and I’m proud to admit and say that it’s located in my district,” he said.
New Waterford-area councillor Kendra Coombes is also in favour of the deal.
“We are in a housing crisis, make no mistake about it,” she said. “Here in CBRM, we are in an affordable housing crisis right now.”
Coombes lauded the non-profit housing association.
“We need to support the work that they are doing in order to ensure that our most vulnerable have safe homes and safe roofs over their heads and warm places to sleep at night,” she said. “I cannot sing their praises more.”
Before it can sell land below market value, CBRM has to hold a public hearing. That’s scheduled for next Tuesday night.
The Department of Community Services said in an email it has committed operational funding for both of the two existing facilities, and an additional $20,000 a year for the new building’s operations.
But it’s not clear where the money to build the new facility will come from.
Fred Deveaux, executive director of the community housing association, declined comment until after next week’s hearing.