By ROSALYN ROY
PORT AUX BASQUES – Town council and then-MHA Andrew Parsons expressed a sense of loss and frustration when the affordable housing project was canceled in Aug. 2020. The proposed construction of eight mobility-friendly units was sorely needed, and over 30 people had submitted their names hoping to secure a unit. However the project never really got far off the ground, primarily due to a lack of funding.
Since Port aux Basques was dealing with massive revenue losses, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic that had derailed tourism draws like Come Home Year, it could not afford to take out a loan to make up the difference.
“It would place a financial burden on the taxpayers,” said Coun. Melvin Keeping at the time.
Keeping, who is on the board of the Gateway Village Corporation that undertook the affordable housing initiative, had run for council in large part to see the project come to fruition.
But even as the project was canceled, the town and Parsons pledged to learn from the experience and explore future funding initiatives. It appears their efforts have been successful. Town Manager Leon MacIsaac has confirmed that the affordable housing initiative is underway one again.
“Gateway Village Corporation has approval to receive approximately $1.6 million dollars to build 8 accessible and energy efficient units subject to meeting a number of design and financial criteria,” wrote MacIsaac via e-mail.
The necessary criteria is set forth by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC). MacIsaac clarified that the funding was obtained through separate CMHC programs for affordable housing.
Responding to inquiries, MacIsaac wrote, “There is still one affordable housing project that is slated for the Stadium Road area; however, alternate sites have been reviewed as well.”
Stadium Road is the site of the Bruce Arena, which burned to the ground in 1995. The concrete platform that remains has been vacant ever since, but offers a stunning view of the town and harbour and has already undergone environmental assessment during the first attempt to build affordable housing units at that site.
MacIsaac believes that the funding should prove sufficient to see the project through to completion this time around.
“Both the previous and current funding streams will provide sufficient funds, however, changes in labour and material costs will affect the overall budget.”
Gateway Village Corporation intends to start the project this spring, after receiving final approval.
“Further environmental studies have to be completed prior to receiving approvals and can take a number of weeks depending on availability of consultants,” explained the town manager.
All construction on the affordable housing units must be completed by March 2022.