St James optimistic as Perth council changes affordable housing policy

Perspective Logo

St. James the Apostle’s affordable housing project in Perth is back on track.

Two motions passed by Perth’s Town Council have left the St. James outreach group optimistic about its plan to create 10 units of affordable housing on town land at 63 Halton Street. 

St. James organized and works through a steering committee known as Community Housing Initiative Perth (CHIP). The project is St James’s contribution to the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa’s campaign to create 125 units of affordable housing in celebration of the diocese’s 125th anniversary.

One approved council motion amended the town’s strategic plan so it can designate surplus lands to be used to establish affordable housing. The second required that proposals must be based solely on the creation of affordable housing, with the town offering the land at a nominal cost of one dollar. 

In December, the council called a halt to any initiatives on affordable housing and ruled that proposals for town-owned land must be open to anyone interested.

CHIP was concerned that the policy would allow for conventional housing by developers, promising a small number of units somewhat below market rent but nowhere near rates needed for people who are on wait lists for affordable housing.

The town issued its Request for Proposals (RFP) for affordable housing on the Halton Street site in February and the CHIP group worked feverishly to file its proposal before the March 20 deadline.

“We’ve been working to this moment for a number of years,” Canon Ken Davis of St. James says. “We’ve established a solid partnership with Carebridge Community Support, a non-profit affordable housing provider that has completed similar projects in the county.” 

Co-chair David Kroetsch of St James is elated by the new motions and says the town’s new Request for Proposal (RFP) rules align positively with CHIP’s plans. 

 “We are extremely pleased that council has made this bold commitment to affordable housing in Perth,” he says. “This support is desperately needed so that the community can now move ahead to create secure housing for marginalized residents, as has been done in Mississippi Mills and Smiths Falls.” 

One of the reasons the council put forward in December for its change of heart was the need to consult Lanark County. The county had issued an RFP strictly for affordable housing with a $1.5 million grant.

Following the negative reception that CHIP got in December from the town council, senior officials of Lanark County invited representatives of the group to a meeting to discuss the way forward.

The CHIP group’s plan has always centred around Carebridge Community Support owning and operating the project.  

Out of the meeting with the county came a plan whereby Carebridge would create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a proposal asking the town to grant Carebridge the land on condition that CHIP is awarded Lanark’s $1.5 million grant.

Carebridge’s track record in the county and CHIP’s work on the project over four years helped to position CHIP as the best candidate. 

Rental costs will be at or below the defined affordable housing rates set by Lanark County, and are to remain as affordable housing for a least 30 years. 

While the town will provide the land, council said it is not able to waive property taxes, permit fees and development charges.

The county’s family and social services department will determine eligible tenants from a waiting list of more than 300 people in the town.

The plan calls for 10 units (single and multiple bedrooms with accessible units of each) but if 12 units are more attractive to town council CHIP will be ready to comply.

Local architects have helped create conceptual drawings. “The design for a 10-unit building has been shaped by input from our meeting with neighbours of the site last May,” Canon Davis says. 

“After their input, we were moved to rework our plans for 10 units that would require fewer parking spaces with the lowest possible environmental impact. The layout would also provide attractive mutual greenspaces, improved drainage and a design that fits well with surrounding properties and buildings—most like two-story single lot homes.”


  • David Humphreys

    David Humphreys is a member of the diocesan Homelessness and Affordable Housing Working Group. A retired journalist and former Globe and Mail bureau chief, he is a regular contributor to Crosstalk.

Keep on reading

Skip to content