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Rental apartments in Newmarket get $79M boost from Ottawa

15-storey purpose-built apartment building could be open by end of 2022, developer The Rose Corporation says

More than 200 purpose-built and affordable apartments are expected to hit Newmarket by the end of 2022, thanks to a federal government program that aims to boost the construction of rentals across the country.

At the site of developer The Rose Corporation’s 4.4-acre master-planned community off Davis Drive, just east of Yonge Street, Canada’s housing minister Ahmed Hussen today announced that the federal government will provide $79 million in financing to The Rose Corporation to help build a 15-storey building with 216 apartments at 195 Deerfield Rd.

The well-attended event included a tour of the construction site that will eventually see an amenity-rich housing complex that includes townhomes and three towers, two of which will be purpose-built rentals. 

Construction on the affordable rental building at 195 Deerfield Rd., which represents the first phase of construction within the new community known as Bakerfield, began in March 2020.

The second phase of construction will begin in fall 2020 on the 218-unit high-rise condo building known as The Davis Residences at Bakerfield. It is over 80 per cent sold with prices that started in the $400,000s.

The Rose Corporation is no stranger to Newmarket or to purpose-built rentals. The company, which currently has six rental housing projects underway, opened Newmarket’s first rental building in nearly four decades in 2017 at 212 Davis Dr. 

“Current events have reminded us, more than ever, that nothing is more important than having a home,” Hussen said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our homes have become our sanctuaries, a place of safety, and a place of refuge in challenging times.”

Federal support for the local rental project is being delivered through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Construction Financing initiative (RCFi), which provides low-cost loans to developers to encourage construction of rental housing in communities where the need is clearly demonstrated.

Hussen said interest is so high in the national housing strategy program that the federal government has increased funding twice since its launch in 2017, and also extended the funding time frame to 2027. 

In total, $13.75 billion is available in loans for the construction of more than 42,500 affordable rental housing units across Canada, said Hussen.

“(This project) is a win for renters, it is a win for the local economy, it is a win for workers, and it is a win for their families,” he added.

About 20 per cent of Newmarket residents rely on the rental market to meet their housing needs, at a time when the vacancy rate hovers precariously at about 2 per cent, statistics show. 

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said there are other dire statistics that point to the magnitude of the challenge facing communities in providing a mix of affordable housing options to residents.

“From 2008 to 2018, the (cost of the) average single family home in York Region rose by 119 per cent. Family incomes rose by 14 per cent,” Taylor said. “We’re left asking ourselves, will everybody in our community find a place to live?”

Taylor said that affordability has to exist across a spectrum, and the Bakerfield development will offer a mix of condos, townhouses, and rentals for people who are at different stages of their lives, from millennials to seniors.

“You have to be hitting all of the areas for affordability and provide a range of options of affordability for people who have different needs,” he said. 

“If we’re going to build complete communities, if we’re going to take this challenge seriously and move ourselves forward, we have to embrace the full length of the housing spectrum, that includes the missing middle, affordable home ownership, housing for people experiencing homelessness, but a big piece of the puzzle is purpose-built rental,” Taylor said.

“We’ve got to succeed at this, and the only way to do that is to innovate, collaborate, and accelerate,” he said, noting that the federal program is crucial to building more rental apartments. “If we’re just producing housing for wealthy people in our community, we’re not building a complete community. If you don’t have purpose-built rentals, you don’t have an economically viable community. Those who do will succeed in the long run, and those who do not will struggle 10, 20 and 30 years from now, economically.”

The Rose Corporation CEO Sam Reisman, who is also building the King George School lofts and townhomes within the old school and surrounding property in downtown Newmarket, said that without the government’s rental construction financing initiative, apartments would not get built.

“All of this is very valuable assistance and it’s 100 per cent repaid, that’s smart policy,” Reisman said. “It’s this low-cost approach to policy that will permit the program to expand.”

Reisman said he believes the stakes are high, and that housing affordability is essential to the country’s sustained economic growth and competitiveness.

“I can’t say enough about the support the mayor and region has given us,” Reisman told NewmarketToday about the Bakerfield development. “As a result, these three buildings will be finished by the end of 2023 or 2024. Without the town’s help on this development, this would not have happened.”

Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen, a former mayor of Newmarket for 12 years, said “this is a significant investment in Newmarket to provide much needed new housing options”.

"We know housing is a foundation to build better lives and share in the prosperity of our community,” Van Bynen said. “This $79-million investment will provide 216 new housing units for hard-working families of Newmarket-Aurora, and a safe and affordable place to call home."  

Meanwhile, several members of the newly formed group Concerned Citizens for the Homeless in Newmarket attended today’s announcement with placards in hand to deliver the messages that affordable housing is needed now and that Newmarket’s seasonal homeless shelter, Inn from the Cold, should have its season extended to house the community’s most vulnerable.

Van Bynen and Hussen spoke with the group to hear their concerns.

“We are happy that there are affordable housing units in this development and we want to acknowledge that, but we want to extend our concerns about the homeless, more generally, and those who use the seasonal shelter, that period should be extended,” said the group’s chairperson Rev. Ross Carson. “And we’re in favour of inclusionary zoning, which includes affordable housing units within a luxury development.”

Group member Marsha Fox said it’s important for “people to live in mixed neighbourhoods so we all get to know each other better and break down the divisions between classes of people”. 

“Many, many years ago I lived in the Jane and Finch area of North York,” Fox said. “When North York took all the low-income housing and plunked it into one part of town, that was a serious mistake. Neighbourhoods should be mixed by income, race, gender, and that’s a big part of what we’re about.”

When completed, the Bakerfield community will bring 587 units to Newmarket, 369 of which will be purpose-built rental apartments.

Here is a by-the-numbers look at the 195 Deerfield Rd. affordable housing development:

  • The development involves the construction of a 15-storey building with 216 residential units, ranging from one-bedroom units to three-bedroom ground-oriented and tower units; 
  • Amenity spaces include a communal 20,000-square-foot park with a playground, a kids zone, fitness centre and yoga studio;
  • The development has easy access to the VIVA bus rapid transit, bicycle parking for all residents and direct access to biking and walking trails;
  • Designed to meet LEED Silver requirements, the building has also invested significantly into electric vehicle charging stations;
  • At least 30 units will meet the municipal accessibility requirements, and will include units with universal and adaptable design;
  • This development represents a new supply of purpose-built rental housing in Newmarket, where the vacancy rate was 2 per cent as of October 2019, a decrease from 2.4 per cent in October 2018;
  • The RCFi, a National Housing Strategy (NHS) initiative delivered by CMHC, supports rental housing construction projects to encourage a stable supply of rental housing across the country for middle-class households struggling in expensive housing markets;
  • Launched in April 2017,the RCFi will encourage the construction of 42,500 new rental housing units across Canada;
  • Low-cost loans are available to borrowers who want to build purpose-built rental housing in Canada in response to demonstrated community need;
  • The rental market is an important housing option for approximately 30 per cent of Canadians;
  • Under the Investing in Canada plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada's rural and northern communities.

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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