St. Catharines-owned lot to get at least 80 units of affordable housing


Published July 12, 2023 at 2:03 pm

The former City of St. Catharines Recreation building at 320 Geneva St. has now been torn down to make room for more than 80 new affordable housing units.

It took St. Catharines a while but it looks like the city-owned property at 320 Geneva St. is finally getting more than 80 units of supportive and affordable housing.

The plan to build on that spot with a mix of supportive, affordable and market-value housing has been in the works for a while but the potential developer backed away from the last effort. Niagara Regional Housing (NRH) will now step up to the plate to get the units built.

While it still needs Regional approval, which is pretty much a lock, the City-owned property that used to house recreational staff and has since been demolished, will become a mixture of Bridge Housing, NRH affordable housing (townhouses) and land for private market development in a three-phase project.

“I am excited to see this property moving forward on the goals expressed by both the last term of Council and this term of Council,” said St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe.

“It has been a complicated road to get here, but I am confident in NRH’s ability to quickly build the bridge and affordable housing that our community so desperately needs. Let’s get those shovels in the ground.”

Merritton Councillor Greg Miller alluded to the fact that this project has been in the works for quite some time but to no avail – until now.

“It took some time, patience and a willingness to be bold to help properly address the housing crisis,” said Miller. “I am particularly looking forward to having the bridge housing program in St. Catharines.”

The property at 360 Geneva St., which has already seen the municipal building levelled, will be sold to NRH for a nominal fee. While no one has stated a dollar figure, the property deal and transfer are expected to take place this summer.The first phase of the project (Bridge Housing) is envisioned as being a four-storey building featuring 36 Bridge Housing units and 12 supportive housing units. Bridge Housing clients are individuals who are chronically homeless.

They represent less than 10 per cent of unique individuals who access shelter services, however, they utilize almost 40 per cent of available beds. Building Bridge Housing will free up significant numbers of shelter beds and mitigate the need to invest further in short-term solutions.

Before the end of 2023, a request for proposals (RFP) for the design of the first phase is expected to be issued, environmental site assessment work, the award for design and permit/site planning are expected to be completed.

An RFP for construction will be issued early in 2024, followed by an award and construction commencing. This first phase is expected to be completed by mid-2025.

The second phase of the project (NRH affordable housing – townhouses) would see the construction of 36 affordable housing units. These houses, which are geared to income (30 per cent of gross household income) are envisioned to consist of stacked and back-to-back townhouses.

The third phase will see environmental site assessment work and cleanup at the same time as phase two. The third phase, which encompasses approximately 50 per cent of the property, will be marketed and sold by NRH at fair market value to help offset the cost of the other units.

NRH Board Chair Gary Zalepa, also the Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the Lake, noted, “By providing a mix of housing options such as supportive housing and affordable rental units, future tenants will be able to find a housing unit that best meets their needs as well as resources designed to assist them with future opportunities. Once complete, these homes will help to foster a broader sense of community for all future tenants.”

Construction of the 82-84 new units will result in an investment estimated to be between $27 million and $30 million in the property.

The former City of St. Catharines Recreation facility at 320 Geneva St. has now been levelled.

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