The Orchard Park Office Centre at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre will be retrofitted to become 70 fully accessible apartment units as part of an affordable housing project by Angel Oaks Community Inc. in Guelph.

Mark Enchin, the director of Angel Oaks Community told CBC News that the apartment will welcome all people who have trouble finding affordable housing.

Mark Enchin

Enchin was inspired to start this project because of his own concerns about finding affordable housing for his daughter who has a disability. (Courtesy of Mark Enchin)

"People who are on disability pensions, or seniors, or people working for $12 an hour, they face the same concerns," he said. "They're not going to be able to keep up, and they're getting pushed down the economic ladder faster than anyone else."

While the building will be fully accessible, including all the units, Enchin wants to emphasize that this project is not to create an institution specifically for adults with disabilities.

His plan to design accessible units so they remain accommodating for people for years to come. 

"Maybe they had a stroke and they can't walk up the stairs anymore, so they have to move, where are they going to move to?" he said, "Imagine we're just trying to design something from the bottom-up, instead of from the top-down."

Building a community

Enchin said the residential units are only one part of the project. Other components include renovating existing commercial spaces in the building for local businesses, building a greenhouse and installing solar panels to reduce utility costs.

In the proposal sent to Ignatius Jesuit Centre, it also highlights social programming for residents to further education and training. The plan is to invite agencies already offering those social services to run their programs out of the retrofitted building.

Ignatius Jesuit building affordable housing

The second floor of the building plans to have mostly residential units, with a library and a computer lab on one side. (Courtesy of Mark Enchin)

Enchin said another selling point of the complex is that it's surrounded by farmland, yet only minutes away from a plaza with a Walmart. Enchin said it's perfect for people who want to live in the city but still have easy access to green space.

He has also reached out to the city of Guelph to look into bringing public transit to the apartment complex because the people who would likely live there may not have cars.

"They're actually, I believe, this week or next week, going to be out there planning routes to bring buses to the centre," he said.

Enchin is also speaking to GM about sponsoring several electric vehicles for a community car share program for residents to run errands.

Ignatius Jesuit Centre affordable housing

The building (red pin) is surrounded by green space, but still a close distance to stores like Walmart and Canadian Tire.

Fundraising

Ignatius Jesuit Centre has signed the letter of intent with Angel Oaks Community Inc., and now Enchin is looking to sell 40 to 50 life leases to fund the retrofitting and installation of amenities.

People can apply to purchase a life lease of a unit for a reduced price in comparison to the market, and when they want to sell it, Angel Oaks Community will buy it back for re-selling at a similar price to new residents.

"The kind of people that are going to be living here are the people that aren't necessarily concerned about making a lot of money on their units," he said, "We're trying to give people that don't have the means to actually now have the means," he said.