'The fire-hall lands have turned out not to be suitable, but council has made a commitment to build supportive housing along with the county,' says resident
BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at email@example.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter references the supportive housing proposal in the Brock Park neighbourhood, 'Vespra St. housing project should not go ahead, says city staff report,' published May 13.
There are a handful of topics that are naturally polarizing when I speak to my fellow Barrie residents. Among those on my short list is supportive housing for homeless and those with mental health and addiction issues.
At one end of the scale there are those who see housing as a universal human right. At the other end are those who see those at the bottom end of the socioeconomic scale as less than worthy. That the homeless should be housed on farms and used as labourers or billeted outside the city. Out of sight and out of mind.
The balance is the majority that understands this issue needs to be dealt with and that we cannot continue to ignore it any longer.
Most residents understand the need for affordable housing. This present real-estate market is a lesson on how housing can be pushed out of reach of the average family.
This brings me to the purpose of my letter, which is to offer an alternative site for the supportive housing project that was slated to be built on the old fire-hall lands on Vespra Street. As you may now maybe aware, that project appears to be dead in the water.
Many local Brock Park residents must be breathing a sigh of relief. There was significant opposition in the neighbourhood to this project. Crime, drugs, property values, and safety are major concerns.
Years ago, one of my associates in the charitable works community told me about when he had visited an Etobicoke councillor seeking land for an affordable housing project. Rob Ford rolled out a map on his desk and pointed out all the city-owned, vacant land that was available in his ward.
So, what could be an alternative location for this project in Barrie?
First, one thing that is lacking at the north end of the Brock Park neighbourhood is a park. Residents would like to see the fire-hall lands turned into just that — a new park. When I roll out a map on my desk, I see potential for a site that would remove much of the NIMBY factors.
I propose exploring developing this project at the south end of the wastewater treatment plant at Bradford Street, Lakeshore Drive and Essa Road. There is a triangular piece of land that is being used as green space.
If modular housing was designed for and developed on this land, it would be isolated from surrounding neighbourhoods, but still accessible to public transit, nearby social and mental health services, and offer a healthy lifestyle environment.
There is also a precedent for choosing this location. At one time, the Farmhouse Restaurant was used as housing for men for decades. In turn, the housing project would create a buffer concealing the wastewater plant. It would also allow the city and the County of Simcoe to showcase their housing commitment to those less fortunate.
There is also an opportunity to develop an environmentally sustainable housing project to meet future CO2 targets. The adjacent wastewater plant generates methane gas that is simply burned off and wasted. This could be captured and used for heating or gas-fired electric generation. A chiller system running pipes into the depths of nearby Kempenfelt Bay would provide low-cost cooling for the summer months.
The fire-hall lands have turned out not to be suitable, but council has made a commitment to build supportive housing along with the county.
There are alternatives that will please most people. It takes vision and a willingness to explore the alternatives. We now have an opportunity to step back and have another look at this project.