News Local

Retirement residence didn't suit Villa

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

Orillia Retirement Residence was considered as a location for Hillcrest Villa, says Jim Saunders, director on the Hillcrest Lodge board.


“For a number of reasons we felt it would not be appropriate,” Saunders said Tuesday.

At Monday's council meeting, city politicians agreed to lease Hillcrest Public School for $1. This allows the Hillcrest Lodge Corporation to apply for $3.84 million in federal and provincial funding to renovate the school into a 32-bed affordable- housing seniors' complex.

At the same meeting, Madden suggested the city apply for the same grant funding to purchase and renovate Orillia Retirement Residence, a vacant seniors' apartment complex — at 24 Simcoe St. — into a 63-bed affordable-housing development for seniors.

In Madden's proposal, the city would put an offer on the property conditional on a not-for-profit affordable housing board being successful in obtaining the grant funding. The city would then sell the property to the board for $1.

“Quite honestly and very likely, the Hillcrest lodge board would likely have been the only proponent anyhow,” Madden said.

The proposal lost 4-4 in a recorded vote.

“I hope people realize I worked extremely hard on this file to find a solution that would make the most amount of people happen,” Madden said.

The Hillcrest Lodge board — who will manage Hillcrest Villa — didn't feel the Orillia Retirement Residence suited their model and they felt it wasn't financially possible.

Madden said he could have alleviated the boards concerns if they had spoke with him.

“That's one of the reasons I'm most frustrated with this process,” he said. “Had somebody picked up the phone and asked me these questions I would be happy to address their objections.”

Over the years, Madden has reached out to the board and encouraged them to find alternate locations, he said.

The councillor didn't support the Hillcrest Public School site as he's in favour of a full 2.7-acre park.

The Hillcrest Villa proposal will cut the park by .7 acres.

“I feel very, very strongly for walkable neighbourhoods and access to passive use recreation and I would have fought this hard for any other neighbourhood in the city of Orillia,” Madden said.

The Orillia Retirement Residence currently has 31 apartments and 42 bedrooms. The units were previously rented monthly for $3,000 to $4,000.

“For those people (who need affordable housing) a one or two bedroom apartment is not really appropriate for them,” Saunders said. “They don't have the money to pay the utilities on the bigger space and they don't have the money to furnish it.”

Along with this, moving forward with a 31 unit complex will reduce the amount of grant money Hillcrest Villa could apply for.

The County of Simcoe _dispersing the federal and provincial funding — has allocated $3.84-million to affordable rental housing, or $120,000 per unit for up to 32 units, Saunders said.

“There is only 31 apartments in that building so you start dropping off what you can actually go for,” he said.

Adding alternate level of care beds to the Simcoe Street complex — Hillcrest Villa at the school will provide eight to 10 above the 32-bachelor apartments — would also cut down on the eligible funding, Saunders said.

“We would have to take two or three of the apartments away... if you take them away for other uses you lose another $120,000 a crack,” he said. “The amount we could ask for got down to the point where we couldn't afford it.”

Madden was suggesting the apartment be renovated to provide 63-bedrooms. Saunders doesn't feel this, along with constructing a kitchen, would be possible within the eligible grant funding.

The property is listed at $3.5 million, and a common kitchen must be added.

Madden said the renovation — including a $100,000 kitchen — could be accommodated within the grant funding.

“The way the units are configured, and I have this on the authority of a professional engineer who is intimate with the property, it would not take a great deal of difficulty to subdivided some of those larger units into multiple spaces,” he said.

Madden's proposal would have seen the city apply for the affordable rental housing grant to purchase and renovate the building and then open it up to a non-profit to run.

“He doesn't even know whose going to be in it,” Saunders said, adding this could prove difficult in applying for the grant. “We didn't feel his proposal would be even accepted. We couldn't afford to drop the other and pick up something that was flawed, that we felt had no chance of winning.”

Twitter: @Sara_VRoss 

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