‘We’re in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. It’s almost irresponsible of us to not look at’ project
Get ready to wave goodbye to Kevin’s Place at 835 Gorham St. as non-profit Blue Door looks to tear down its youth shelter and replace it with a three-storey townhouse development providing emergency and temporary housing.
At a committee meeting Jan. 16, councillors approved the agency’s request for a minister’s zoning order (MZO) that would fast-track funding for the project from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. At the same time, MZOs reduce public input on development proposals.
Council must still approve the MZO request but that appears to be a foregone conclusion based on unanimous approval at the committee meeting.
If it goes forward, the project would include 14 units for youth, adults and families needing emergency housing and as they transition from homelessness to permanent housing.
The units would be a mix of affordable rental and supportive units, with staff and an office on site to provide assistance for those in the supportive units.
Blue Door executive director, Michael Braithwaite, said it’s time to get rid of the existing shelter and replace it with something more appropriate.
“Kevin’s Place, although it’s served us well over the years and we’ve made the best of it, it was never designed for its purpose. It’s just a residential home that at one point was donated to Blue Door,” he told The Era and yorkregion.com following the meeting.
Its limitations became obvious during the pandemic because rooms could no longer be shared, which restricted the number of clients who could live there. It’s also not accessible and has no programmable space, Braithwaite said.
“Here we have a small house on a big piece of land and we’re in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. I think it’s almost irresponsible of us to not look at, hey, we own this land; it could be more,” he said.
“We’re an organization whose mission is really to help our most vulnerable attain affordable housing.”
Resident Lionel Franklin commended Blue Door for supporting people who are homeless.
But he also expressed some concerns.
For example, the Blue Door project is just one of five proposed development projects on Gorham, which could add hundreds of residents to the area, Franklin said.
He also asked whether the townhouses could be reduced to two storeys and expressed concerns the MZO would lock residents out of the planning process.
However, Blue Door will set up a community liaison group to work with residents to address concerns.
Councillors are on board with the project.
“This is an example of why I’m doing what I do and why I’m in politics. This is where we have to stand up and lead and move forward,” Mayor John Taylor, who is also chair of Housing York, said.
“These projects are sorely needed across Ontario and certainly across this region and we need to step forward and move this forward.”
Coun. Victor Woodhouse said housing, particularly for those vulnerable to homelessness, is needed in Newmarket.
The project would likely be approved even without the MZO request, said Woodhouse, who will sit on the liaison group.