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City selling off surplus land around Barrie for residential use

'We continue to hit above our weight when it comes to housing,' says mayor
Barrie's former police station, located at 29 Sperling Dr., is one of the properties the city has deemed surplus and will be put up for sale.

The city has hung a for-sale sign on three of its properties to help create more housing in Barrie.

While marking this council’s first year, Mayor Alex Nuttall announced Thursday that a portion of the H-Block at 50 Worsley St., 29 and 35 Sperling Dr., and part of 48 Dean Ave., are surplus to the city’s needs and will be sold.

“We continue to hit above our weight when it comes to housing,” he said, noting 1,200 to 1,400 new residential units could be built on the three properties, which all need to be rezoned for residential use.

“All combined, they will provide a large increase in the amount of housing available here in the city," Nuttall added. 

Their sale will also be a cash cow for the city.

2022-02-28 John Edwin Coupe Park RB 1
John Edwin Coupe Park is located in downtown Barrie near the public library. | Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday files

Nuttall said the potential sale values of these three properties is roughly $35 million, their estimated annual tax revenue to the city is $3.5 million and the development charges (DCs) created through these property sales is $36 million.

DCs are designed to recover the capital/infrastructure costs associated with residential and non-residential (commercial, industrial, institutional) growth within a municipality from developers, so that existing residents don’t have to foot the bill.

Nuttall said this finding will help pay for city priorities and keep taxes affordable.

Bill 23, the province’s More Homes Built Faster Act of 2022, calls for 1.5 million new homes built in Ontario by 2031.

Barrie councillors endorsed a pledge in early 2023 with a target of 23,000 new homes built by 2031, in addition to what’s already planned.

“We are well on our way to reach our 23,000 homes target,” Nuttall said. “Our council is committed to doing whatever is possible to increase the supply of housing.”

Of the city properties on the market, 29 Sperling is the former Barrie police station, which was used by Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) as its COVID testing clinic and vaccination centre during the pandemic, while 35 Sperling is the adjacent parking lot.

The H-Block, which had been eyed as a possible location for a new YMCA facility, is near the Barrie Public Library's downtown branch and John Edwin Coupe Park, while 48 Dean is near the Painswick library branch in the city's south end in the Yonge Street-Big Bay Point Road area.

The Bill 23 pledge divides Barrie’s housing target into five areas, the largest being 19,180 units based on demographic trends, from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs forecast for allocation of growth for this city.

Collaborating with development industry partners is expected to yield 3,900 housing units, second and third suites another 1,800 units, the New Foundations program (on church, place-of-worship, institutional properties) 1,500 units and 1,400 units by re-examining existing development approvals. This totals 27,780 new homes, well above the 23,000 target.

But the city could see a substantial reduction in development charges during the next five years, a potential hit to the city of $125 million. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has estimated 80 per cent of growth costs were recovered by DCs before the introduction of Bill 23.

A 70 to 75 per cent recovery of growth-related capital costs from DCs is now a reasonable estimate.