The cost of building temporary shelters rises to $14.4 million

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The proposed 40-unit transitional housing complex on Lorraine Street, west of the intersection of Notre Dame Avenue and Lasalle Boulevard in New Sudbury, has seen costs rise from its original $10 million ceiling projected during 2021 budget deliberations driven

Given that the cost of almost everything has skyrocketed in recent months, it’s no big surprise that the planned Lorraine Street transitional housing complex is expected to increase to an estimated $14.4 million.

As described by Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh in response to the city government latest report for the project, which had a rough cost estimate of $10 million early last year.

Despite the jump in costs, McIntosh expects her colleagues to continue supporting the project during the Aug. 9 Finance and Administration Committee meeting for which it is on the agenda.

City council unanimously backed the project during budget deliberations for 2022, and next week’s meeting will provide them with another go/no-go decision point.

“We’re a compassionate city and we don’t want to leave anyone behind,” McIntosh said. “I believe the will of the council will be to move forward and make sure we have the funding that we need.”

McIntosh joined Ward 10 County. Fern Cormier and District 12 District. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, who pushed the project’s business case during 2021 budget deliberations that the federal government was pursuing with a $7.4 million grant. While federal funding is conditional on the city creating at least 28 units, the project is slated to include 40.

The units and clinical facilities within the building are designed to help convert the chronically homeless into permanent community housing like the 38-unit building slated to open next summer next to the Pearl Street water tower.

Unlike permanent community housing, the transitional housing complex “isn’t just apartments,” McIntosh said. “In this building there is clinical support for people.”

According to a Business Case Council discussed during the 2021 budget deliberations, the facility will include an Assertive Community Treatment Team consisting of 12 full-time and four part-time employees and will have a total cost of $1.74 million per year when fully implemented . At the time, annual operating costs were estimated at $2.24 million.

These costs are the responsibility of the provincial government, but the City Council has opted to proceed with both this and the monitored point of use using municipal funds until the province intervenes.

There is no indication that the province intends to fund these health facilities.

Last year, Mayor Brian Bigger released a public appeal, and this year Ontario’s Big City Mayors joined the fight alongside the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

McIntosh attended an AMO meeting in June and said this week that support for funding programs like the transitional housing complex is “across the board” and the organization is lobbying the province on behalf of the communities.

“This is a huge crisis that we are experiencing across the province and across the country and I am confident that we are ready to work with the province, but we are still not ready to wait,” she said.

An obstacle to the further development of the project is the resistance of the surrounding residents, who are against it. Your City Council Representative, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan supports them.

“The transitional housing, from my position and from what I’m getting from residents, is better off downtown because you also have all these other services in the area,” Kirwan said, clarifying that area residents don’t mind affordable housing is housing and is concerned about the transitional housing component.

Because the $7.4 million in federal funding for affordable housing isn’t contingent on the housing being transitional, Kirwan said the city might be better off targeting it to accommodate seniors instead.

Although the public consultation followed the council choosing Lorraine Street for the transitional housing complex, Kirwan said it started off on the wrong foot when residents found out about the project through local media coverage, “which was quite difficult for me as a councillor is to defend”.

The cost increase to $14.4 million is also of concern, Kirwan said, noting that the original business plan, approved by the city council early last year, cited a $10 million cap. Reducing the number of units from 40 to the original price point could also be an option.

The ongoing running costs of the transitional housing complex, which should be funded by the province, will be a hard pill for the city council elected on Oct. 24, Kirwan said.

“Are you willing to increase taxes by almost 1 percent to cover medical costs for this one building?” he asked. “If I’m sitting at the table, I’m not prepared for that, that’s … not a city responsibility.”

“There isn’t an overwhelming demand for senior housing,” McIntosh said of Kirwan’s alternative plan. However, there is a list of around 120 people who could immediately benefit from transitional shelters designed to move the chronically homeless into permanent community shelters.

Amid the city’s intertwined homelessness and opioid crises, it’s difficult to find anyone who isn’t affected or knows someone who is affected by these issues, which the city is trying to solve through efforts like the transitional housing complex.

“Anytime there’s a change in the neighborhood, there’s a concern,” she said, citing the city’s plans to hold another community engagement meeting before building the complex.

The city held a virtual information event on November 18, 2021, for which it prepared a presentation Highlight project details. A list of questions and answers came out of the session.

The newest information session to be discussed by the Finance and Administration Committee on August 9 focuses on the cost of the project. The city recommends awarding an approximately $12 million design-build bid to Alberta-based companies Nomodic Modular Structures Inc. and Buttcon Ltd.

$7.4 million in federal funding, $1 million in provincial funding and a $6 million withdrawal from municipal reserves are planned to fund construction, which will have no municipal tax impact.

Of submitted seven bidssix of which were from Ontario-based companies, the winning bidder received the highest score based on the city’s rating.

According to a tender document prepared by the city, the transitional housing complex will “help fill gaps and relieve pressure on other services such as hospitals, paramedics, police, social services, the judiciary and correctional services by providing housing for those who are preparing for the next treatment steps or are discharged from the hospital, but still need intensive care to be successfully accommodated.”

The 40 one-bedroom units will be 400 square feet and, according to the tender documents, will not have balconies.

The plan includes parking for 24 vehicles, a common area, a security office and two units for on-site support services. It’s planned to be modular, which McIntosh says means it’ll rise quickly once the order is placed.

Tyler Clarke reports on City Hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

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