Residents, leaders welcome Ottawa’s plan to make former HMCS Hunter property available for housing

The federal government’s announcement to make the former HMCS Hunter naval reserve building available for housing development is getting a thumbs up from area residents and leaders.Liberal MP for Windsor-Tecumseh Irek Kusmierczyk, the CEO of  the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation Cynthia Summers, former city councillor Rino Bortolin and Downtown Windsor BIA chair and developer Chris MacLeod have all welcomed the budget announcement, saying it’s a great move to get more housing in Windsor.”Imagine a building 20 storeys tall, affordable housing, mixed use, and market rents, filled with families, young people, students, nurses … and think of the impact it will have, not just to provide affordable housing but also the economic impact revitalizing the downtown as well too,” Kusmierczyk said. Member of Parliament for Windsor Irek Kusmierczyk says it was great to see the building earmarked in the budget for housing. (Dale Molnar/CBC)The building on Ouellette Avenue has been vacant for almost ten years after a new facility was built in Sandwichtown.It was one of several surplus buildings the Department of National Defence identified for potential housing in the federal budget released Tuesday. Bortolin — who lives close to the property — is hopeful there will be swift movement to “get shovels in the ground.”He said the property is in “a perfect spot for new housing, condos [or] any mixed-use developments.””I think it’s a great plan,” he said.”I think the key will be the details of how fast they can move on these properties, because that HMCS Hunter property has been sitting idle for a while.”How will it work?Kusmierczyk said the budget includes money to prioritize the transfer of federal surplus lands like the HMCS Hunter into the hands of not-for-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity or even private developers to convert empty spaces into affordable housing.He said there’s also money included to accelerate the process. Traditionally it would take the Canada Lands Company anywhere from five to seven years to get a property onto the market, he said.”We want to accelerate that, we want to get that property into the hands of developers and not-for-profit organizations as quickly as possible,” Kusmierczyk said.”We’re talking months, not years, to turn it into affordable housing.”He said the federal government will make an assessment whether to sell or lease the property.’Excellent news for Windsor’Summers also welcomed the announcement, calling it “excellent news for Windsor.”Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation CEO Cynthia Summers. (Jacob Barker/CBC)Summers said her organization would be “very interested” in partnering in order to create affordable housing.”The location of the property is perfect. It’s on transit, it’s near schools, it’s near everything anyone would need to to live comfortably in the community, and it’s a good size lot, so we could probably develop a fairly large number of units for deeply affordable housing in Windsor,” she said.Noting that the current wait list for Windsor-Essex is more than 9,000 people, Summers said the freeing up of this space for housing would not eliminate the list “but it would certainly put a chunk into it.”‘I think it is awesome:’ Downtown Windsor BIA chairMeanwhile, MacLeod says while the project would be too large for his company to take on, “from the downtown perspective, I think it is awesome.””Whenever we can get property from a non-useful into residential, it is going to be great for our downtown, so we were super excited to hear the announcement from the government yesterday as part of the budget,” he said. Ottawa’s commitment to housing was one of the biggest pillars of the federal budget unveiled Tuesday. Before releasing the budget, the government laid out what it’s calling Canada’s Housing Plan — a pledge to “unlock” nearly 3.9 million homes by 2031.The government says two million of those would be net new homes and it believes it can contribute to more than half of them. It plans to do that by: Converting underused federal offices into homes. The budget promises $1.1 billion over ten years to transform 50 per cent of the federal office portfolio into housing. Building homes on Canada Post properties. The government says the 1,700-plus Canada Post offices across the country can be used to build new homes while maintaining postal services. The federal government says it’s assessing six Canada Post properties in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia for development potential “as a start.” Rethinking National Defence properties. The government is promising to look at redeveloping properties and buildings on National Defence lands for military and civilian use. Building apartments. Ottawa is pledging a $15 billion top-up to the Apartment Construction Loan Program, which says it will build 30,000 new homes across Canada.

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