By-law halting supportive housing in Beaverton expires

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Published November 26, 2021 at 11:24 am

The by-law passed by Beaverton town council to ban modular housing developments has been allowed to expire, giving Durham Region the green light to continue developing a 50-unit supportive housing complex in the village the law was designed to halt.

The supportive apartment building is designed to house north Durham’s unsheltered population in an environment where they can receive around the clock physical and mental health services and addiction supports.

However, the building is based on a “housing-first,” meaning tenants are not required to use those services to live in the units. The development is part of the Region’s plan to end homelessness by 2024 by creating 1,000 such units.

Durham Social services reported despite their best efforts and high “out-flow,” rates from its programs, the amount of people becoming homeless remains high enough to keep the number of people on the street the same, at around 300 people per the last Point-in-Time count.

These problems are expected to worsen as COVID-19 funding will be cut next year creating a major budget shortfall.

The proposed development sparked significant opposition from some Beaverton residents who have petitioned Brock Township to block the development. The led to the municipal by-law halting any construction using the modular design of the building.

Much of the opposition came from concerns Beaverton, with a population of about 3,000, was too small to support the complex and lacked adequate health supports. Mayor John Grant noted the nearest hospital is 40 km away in Orillia.

Psychiatrist Mark Katz led a delegation to Regional Council in September to voice his concerns from his background in addiction treatment. “We can build this and it will be populated, but without intensive onsite support…the Region is risking severe adverse health outcomes,” Katz said.

These effects could include overdose deaths, physical health emergencies, violence, and stigmatization of clients, he said.

He called for more engagement with the Township regarding the project and noted that it was the first attempt at such a development in so small a community.

The Region felt the by-law amounted to “people-zoning,” the practice of designating land based on who would use it instead of how the land would be used. As a result they sued Brock Township claiming the by-law was an “illegal action.”

Brock’s firm stance on the development led to numerous concessions from the Region including;

  • A split of 30 residents from the Region’s By-Name Homeless list (those Social Services know by name) and 17 improperly housed residents for the first four years
  • Supportive services to be used
  • On-site twenty-four hour security and CCTV system
  • On-site 24-hour mental health and support services
  • Finding a full-time Doctor for Beaverton or $100,000 investment if one can’t be found
  • Permanent community services on-site for both tenants and Brock residents
  • A full-time police officer in Beaverton or an alternative to enhanced policing in the Township
  • A one tenant per unit limit
  • An intake policy based on supports needed and staggered over the first year;
  • Baseline supports onsite 24/7 such as a minimum staff to resident ratio of 1:10, two resident assistants, two mental health and addiction counsellors, and a shift leader
  • Open communications between Durham Region, Brock Council, senior staff and the Community Liaison Committee

The by-law included an option to be extended for another year, but after confirming these concessions and a year-long housing study, Brock Township Council decided there was “no justification” for extending the ICBL, or any restrictions with respect to the number of units.

Council reaffirmed its concerns regarding the size of the project, but said they remained “hopeful” that with the changes the Region has made “the supportive housing project will be a success,” adding that those same concerns throughout the process “have resulted in a better project.”

“The Beaverton Supportive Housing project will provide a place to call home—a place where people can access the services they need, to help them get back on their feet again,” said Regional Chair John Henry.

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