Community housing development: Renewal, repair, regeneration, and new development
ONPHA recently gathered together community housing leaders to discuss the dos and don’ts of housing development in our Developing community housing – lessons from the frontline workshop. Our panel included Jim Steele, CEO of Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation (CHC) who spoke about their Capital Regeneration Strategy and plans for renewal, repair, regeneration, and development.
Capital regeneration planning
CHC currently owns and manages over 4700 units. Jim says that “with an average age of 49 years old, the current housing stock that CHC owns requires significant capital repair to operate effectively on an ongoing basis – $167M of investment is needed by 2030, over and above our existing capital funding to maintain the portfolio”.
Jim tells us that CHC “recognize[s] that we are at a turning point in our organization. A solution to address the challenges in our Regeneration Plan has to cross several areas – our physical assets, funding/program constraints and our tenants and communities. CHC has a strategic roadmap for repositioning its assets and business activities over the next 15 years while supporting the Windsor Essex Housing and Homelessness Master Plan.”
CHC’s Capital Regeneration Strategy came out of a comprehensive assessment of assets and program risks that the organization was faced with. This strategy looks at the actions to be taken for their properties with the following possibilities in mind:
- Disposal of an asset
- Redevelopment of an existing property
- New development
- Maintaining the asset in good condition
CHC places a great deal of importance on revitalization, focusing on keeping their stock in good condition to preserve the units they currently operate. The organization has taken advantage of the National Housing Strategy in this regard, having secured $170 million in funding from CMHC and the City and County over eight years to invest in revitalizing their current stock.
Goals of their strategy
Jim tells us that “CHC proposes to realign the CHC housing stock with current and projected demand, improve residents’ living conditions through renovation and maintenance, dispose of assets beyond their life cycle, and construct new housing throughout the service area”. In carrying out its strategy, the organization aims to:
Eliminate the loss of affordable housing units by preserving the existing stock to avoid losing or having to develop new units.
Improve the declining condition of housing stock by maintaining the facilities in good condition to provide safe, suitable housing that residents can be proud of.
Contribute to the goals of the Windsor Housing and Homelessness Plan by increasing the number of affordable units in the county to reduce waitlist times and prevent homelessness.
Contribute to the goals of the Windsor Community Energy and Climate Action Plan by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through retrofits and other capital projects.
Create an economic impact for the community by creating construction jobs and allowing residents to spend an appropriate amount on rent so they’re in a better position to spend in the local economy.
Position CHC toward greater sustainability by lessening the need for financial subsidy from the service manager and creating strong, socially-healthy mixed-income neighbourhoods.
Assess government programs by leveraging funding from the federal government to repair and renew older facilities.
Ensure that CHC has the capacity to carry out the plan with its net operating income using the strategies defined above to reduce CHC costs and help offset the costs of implementing the strategy.
CHC chose to build their newest development at 3100 Meadowbrook Lane to a Passive House standard. This helps them meet their objective to contribute to the goals of the Windsor Community Energy and Climate Action Plan, while saving on energy costs, which they can pass on to residents.
The new development will add 145 new units of affordable housing to the community, along with shared community spaces on each floor of the building. CHC has partnered with Community Living Windsor, Hiatus House, and Family Services Windsor-Essex to address housing needs in a collaborative, dynamic environment promoting health, efficiency and safety. Each of these organizations will operate housing for their clients within the building.
3100 Meadowbrook Lane offers accessibility for its residents, featuring 46 barrier-free units and 46 fully-accessible units, (15% over and above code requirement) as well as a convenient drop off area in front of the building, and an accessible fitness room in the basement.
In terms of environmental sustainability, the units feature a master electrical switch that allows tenants to shut off all electrical light loads when they leave their unit, 100% LED lighting in the building and on-site, durable kitchen cabinets made of plywood construction, and Energy Star-rated appliances.
Common areas include a community room on the ground floor that can be partitioned to facilitate gatherings, amenity spaces on each floor that overlook the outdoor green space, a 2-4 EV charging station, electric bike and mobility scooter parking and charging shelter, and storage lockers. Outdoor areas will also offer outdoor fitness stations and will be landscaped with native fauna.
3100 Meadowbrook currently stands its full ten storeys and is scheduled for completion in late fall, 2022. Jim tells us that CHC is “proud to learn that the Meadowbrook Passive House development is Ontario’s largest Passive House [certified] residential building”.
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