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Federal Housing Accelerator program kicks off with $3.3 million for PAB

Program expected to result in 92 new homes in next 3 years.

Brian Button and Gudie Hutchings
Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button with MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains) made the announcement at the Town Hall on Monday, Feb. 19. - © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Rosalyn Roy

Senior Staff Reporter

CHANNEL-PORT AUX BASQUES, NL — A $3.3 million dollar investment, part of the Federal Housing Accelerator program, is expected to result in 92 new residential units within the town over the next three years. The announcement was made on Monday morning, Feb. 19 at the Town Hall by MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains), Minister of Rural and Economic Development and ACOA. Mayor Brian Button and staff, along with representatives from the Port aux Basques & Area Chamber of Commerce also attended the announcement.

"Community makes what we are in good times and bad, as we all know, and that's kind of what I'm here to talk about today. So, friends, we all know many Canadians are finding it hard to find a place to call home these days. Housing shortages don't discriminate by region, and we all know too well that the shortage is affecting us here in small and rural communities, just as folks face it in the big urban centres, too. But here on the southwest coast, we all have, and you all have unique challenges. We literally had homes swept at the sea, as you all know too well, during Hurricane Fiona. And to face these challenges, our government worked with small and rural communities to reach a new housing agreement that covers everyone. One that will address the housing shortages that we have in small and rural communities and one that will help build homes faster, that communities need. So I'm happy to announce that Channel-Port aux Basques will receive over $3.3 million through our new Federal Government Housing Accelerator Fund. The funds are going to make sure that we can build the kind of housing folks need here on the southwest coast." 

Housing was already becoming an issue prior to Hurricane Fiona, and 104 homes, including an 8-unit apartment building, have already come down. Another 57 are scheduled to be demolished later this spring under Phase II of the recovery plan, and along with the province the town has designated an exclusion zone around the coastline where no new structures can be built. The first 92 new homes are expected to take about 3 years, and Hutchings announced that there will be almost another 300 built after that in Port aux Basques, while the entire program will result in 100,000 new homes across the country. Another 60 announcements are forthcoming this week for other communities that were successful in their applications for the Housing Accelerator Fund. 

"The Channel-Port aux Basques Action Plan is going to introduce changes that will tear down the barriers and the stumbling blocks that slow housing down. These actions together are going to help build 92 new homes right here. And it's 92 homes that are needed for a rapidly growing town that needs them really urgently, too. But we're not going to stop there in the long term. This support is going to help build over 390 homes in the next ten years. So that means new homes for neighbours who are going to frequent your businesses, new friends who are going to help you shovel your driveway after a snowstorm, and new citizens who are going to make this town even greater than it already is. That's what the Housing Accelerator Fund is all about. So through the fund, Canada and Canadian and Municipal governments are going to work together to fast track the creation of at least 100,000 homes from coast to coast to coast over the next ten years. And cities and regions across the country estimate it's going to lead to the creation of almost 600 units over the next ten years. So today I'm excited not only to announce a new plan for the town of Channel-Port aux Basques, but also the beginning of a close partnership between the government of Canada and the town."

The partnership will result in the creation of a municipal land trust initiative, and will factor in climate risk in the future developments. 

"The trust will manage a collection of land and buildings, working to create affordable homes, mainly focusing on building homes like duplexes, townhouses and multi unit builds. So it looks like making affordable and easy to access homes more available by introducing a new set of incentives and benefits. And it looks like improving climate resilience by building awareness, projecting the future housing needs that are related to climate risk relocations that you folks know far too well. And what else does it look like? It looks like striving to reach net zero energy and net zero carving in all housing developments, because that truly helps with people's kitchen table issues," said Hutchings, whose entire announcement is available on YouTube.

Mayor Brian Button thanked the town's staff for their commitment to the lengthy application process, particularly Town Manager Nadine Osmond and Economic Development Officer Shauna Strickland, who worked with consultants from Fundamental Inc. The Mayor's remarks are also available on YouTube.

"When we look at the results of $3.3 million and these partnerships, as our minister has acknowledged, this is a great day and a great thing for our communities. And having come through Fiona and knowing that the housing needs in our community have become that much greater, not only in our community, in our surrounding area, for residents in this area, in this region. It's here in Port aux Basques, but we service the region. And so I think that through it all, we'll be able to benefit our outlining communities along with us and the partnerships that we will be able to establish both with our business community through the accelerator fund and be able to work with them and work with the different land banks and the different things that we'll be able to acknowledge and be able to do. And I think those partnerships have already started. I think our economic development officer, Shauna, along with our consultants and our town manager, Nadine, have already started that process where they've already talked to partners in our communities and the business community in our community, and had a first go around to have a chat of things that may be coming." 

The funding will allow for a new position to be created, and Osmond emphasized that this project is not the same as the one that saw 8-affordable housing units built on Army Hill or the partnership with the Canadian Red Cross that will see two former commercial buildings on Grand Bay West Road converted into residential units. 

Nadine Osmond
Town Manager Nadine Osmond. - © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

"All funding comes with different criteria. This one got the economic development component," explained Osmond. "The first step is to document all the land. Back a while ago, previous to this program, we did have a housing assessment needs report done. And in that, that had a map that had all of the locations for the possible land that could be used for housing. So that's going to be a starting point for us. And I guess, anything that's not town owned because it can also include the subdivision, access to the subdivision. There might be some, say church land that hasn't been used in a while, and maybe we can make a deal, a contract or something."

Strickland said the town will help interested developers through the entire process to get the new units built. 

"Another part of this funding is that when the interested developers (reach out), we can also help them along with the development of the plans. So if someone's interested in doing a duplex, triplex, fourplex, then we can help with the cost of getting the plans coordinated," explained Strickland. "Basically, what would happen is we would get these conceptual designs established or developed by engineers, and we would have them here at the office. And if a serious contractor was coming forward, looking to build, then that can be provided to them, and it would save them a huge amount of funds as well as time. So that in itself is a tangible benefit that we can give back to the business community." 

Unlike the Army Hill affordable housing project, there is no waiting list for these units. It is the developers who will build the units, not the town. The deadline for this first stage is December 2026, but Strickland, Osmond and the consultants are still pouring through the documentation  and a new position will likely have to be created before any further steps can be taken, including consultations with interested developers. 

Shauna Strickland
Shauna Strickland, PAB Economic Development Officer. - © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

"We plan to keep the contractors, the business community, engaged. We want them to know what's happening. Just to give you an example, say for the first initiative of the municipal land bank, we're looking at February to June to hire a consultant, get them engaged. Then in April to November, we're looking at the policies and procedures associated with the land bank. Then it's to actually add the legal incorporation of this land bank developed. So that's going to involve lawyers and people like that. So it's four or five steps to one initiative," explained Strickland. "We're trying to build a better business environment for contractors to develop. The town doesn't want to be a landlord. We've always said that, but I guess we had no choice but to look at addressing some of the housing needs. And we're just hoping that these initiatives are going to entice new developments, and there's going to be some value seen in it by the business community."

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