A Thunder Bay developer says his proposed new apartment buildings will help ease the city's rental shortage.

But nearby homeowners in the Red River and Junot Street area worry the project will be a drain on their utilities and increase congestion in the neighbourhood.

Michael Vecchio, owner of MV Properties, already has a 21-unit apartment complex at 25 Melon St. He said he sees first-hand the large demand for rental housing.

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Michael Vecchio wants to add two buildings, each housing six apartments, on this side of his lot on Melon Street. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"When I have a vacant apartment, I get hundreds of calls and people are very desperate," he told CBC News.

Vecchio said he wants to add two more low-rise apartment buildings on the same lot. He said they would each be two storeys, plus basements — and house six apartments apiece.  

"[The planned development] really complements the neighbourhood," he said. "It's not going to be an eyesore."

Loss of privacy

But some nearby homeowners disagree.

Ron Teras, whose house is nearby on Melon Street, said roughly 20 people have sent letters to the city's planning department expressing concern about allowing more units on the lot.    

"I believe the consensus is against this developement," he said. "I haven't met anybody that's in favour of it. So I believe we're fairly united in this."

Teras said one of the biggest concerns for immediate neighbours is loss of privacy.

"The new buildings will be immediately adjacent to our backyards," he said, adding that some people will lose direct sunlight.

Community members are also worried about a strain on their existing utilities, including "reduced water pressure, which is already a bit on the low side in our neighbourhood as it is, [and] increased sewer loading," Teras said.

But Vecchio countered that, if that turns out to be true, the city won't approve his proposal.

"I took everything into consideration and tried to build something that would suit the neighbourhood," he said.  "[I'm not building] another 40-unit or 20-unit apartment building."

'High demand for housing'

Vecchio said this kind of development is something the city should be encouraging to address its extremely low rental vacancy rate.

"There's such a high demand for housing, period."

Teras acknowledged Thunder Bay is facing an apartment shortage, but said his neighbourhood already has five apartment blocks within a small area.

"I think there still is room to expand where the new EMS station went in," he said. "There's other locations, as well, that would be suitable."