by Lucie Roy
Sturgeon Foundation Executive Director Dennis Magnusson said an affordable housing project for Morinville is at a standstill despite working on the project for the past few years. Magnusson brought Council up to speed at their Mar. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“We have been talking about this project now or doing a project for two or three years, “ Magnusson said, adding affordable housing is one of the four main projects in the Foundation’s business plan.
The Foundation has developed some conceptual plans for a community affordable housing project that would be either a two-storey unit with 48 units or four-story building with 82 units. Th project would provide near market rental units below typical market rents, allowing working singles, young families, and seniors to have affordable accommodations in the community.
Magnusson said the proposed project would need government grants and would require a mortgage; the mortgage repaid from the rental revenues.
Not keen on location
Magnusson told Council he had some reservations about the proposed location for the project, north of the cemetery on 100 Street by the water treatment plant.
” I am not sure this is most appealing location for young families,” he said. “We want to explore other locations that may be better for the community as a whole, so that is work to be done in the future.”
Need to prove the need
Though the location may not be ideal for the Foundation, it is not the project’s biggest obstacle.
The executive director told Council despite working with a government grant the Town received approximately five years ago for affordable housing; the project has run into a stumbling block in terms of identifying the need.
“Everybody says we need more community affordable housing in Morinville, and it appears that Council and Administration and many other people are very keen to have this type of housing developed,” he said. “But we need to be able to clearly demonstrate [to the province] the need to meet the business case in order to get the financing for the project.”
Magnusson said although the topic of a needs assessment was discussed between the Foundation and the Town; an assessment has yet to be done.
“The difficulty we are having with that is the needs assessment that were done in other two sub-regions do not clearly show community by community what actual needs are,” he said. “If we are to build housing here in Morinville, we would not just be serving the people who live in Morinville but probably draw people from the surrounding area to live in those projects.”
Magnusson told Council he saw Morinville’s geographical location and proximity to the Edmonton Garrison as a plus for the project to move forward and an indication of the need.
But there is a bit of a catch-22. To proceed with using the grant there needs to be a needs assessment, but the terms of the grant do not allow any of the grant money to be used to do the needs assessment.
Magnusson has reached out to the Real Estate Foundation of Alberta to do a study but will not know until June whether it is possible to do one through that organization. He is currently in talks with the Town to update a needs assessment done locally five years ago. There was also talk of piggybacking on the work being done by the Capital Region Board.
“We would like to be able to move ahead,” Magnusson said, adding he does not see the Foundation doing any affordable housing project planning this year. “[We] will not be doing any more planning in that regard until we have a clear picture of where we are going. We need to pursue this needs assessment.”
Magnusson said the Sturgeon Foundation Board remains committed to trying to find ways to work with Town Council and Administration to find ways to make projects happen. “We cannot do it alone,” he said. “We have to work together very closely if anything is to happen.”