Youth shelter will consider move if Kitchener developer offers housing for homeless teens

The CEO of the Kitchener youth shelter One Roof says they've been in negotiations to sell their building to Vive Developments, but they want a new building to include rental units for homeless youth.

'It's not just about a dollar figure,' One Roof CEO says

This artist rendering shows what the Vive Developments building might look like on Queen Street in Kitchener. (Vive Developments)

A youth shelter in Kitchener says it might be willing to move and make way for a housing development, but they want to ensure the new building will have affordable housing for homeless teens.

One Roof CEO Sandy Dietrich-Bell said they've been in discussions with Vive Developments for about a year, but they have not yet agreed to sell their property at 242 Queen St. S.

Vive has bought two properties that are beside One Roof.

This week, Vive Developments held what it called a voluntary public meeting to get feedback from neighbours on their plans.

"When that invitation went out to the community, I was surprised as anybody to see our address listed. The youth were not told that it has progressed to a point where there's actually a presentation being given on what would be developed on the property," Dietrich-Bell said.

"At this point, unless we have a viable place to go where we can continue services, and not just existing services but increase and grow our services, we're not in a position to be leaving our building."

'We're being good neighbours'

Stephen Litt is the chief development officer at Vive Developments and said the meeting was held so they could hear from neighbours about their plan for an eight-storey, 125 suite "attainable housing" project.

He said they've been in contact with One Roof and discussions have been progressing because One Roof has indicated they may want to move to a larger space.

"They've been awesome ... They're looking for some different sort of space," he said. "Their demands have changed so we're being good neighbours and chatting about the process."

Litt said the project is an 8-storey mid-market rental housing development. The rent at this development would be within 35 per cent of the average household income in Kitchener-Waterloo, he said, which makes it "attainable" but doesn't meet the definition of "affordable."

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Company definition of affordable housing is rent that is less than 30 per cent of a family's pre-tax income.

Not just about the money

Dietrich-Bell said One Roofwould like Vive Developments to agree to affordable housing for youth.

"As part of our negotiation with them … it's not just about a dollar figure, it was about them giving us a percentage of those units for our homeless youth," she said.

"I have said that will go a long way in helping our negotiations if they would make some of their units affordable housing and specific to the youth experiencing homelessness."

Litt said he would be willing to consider it if the city would allow them to add extra floors to the building.

"A healthy neighbourhood incorporates all walks of life and that's exactly what I think this development will attain," he said.

Focus on helping youth

Dietrich-Bell said they have talked to the youth they serve and some indicated they wouldn't mind a move out of the downtown area.

"Being located a little bit away from downtown would be better for them in terms of less triggers, less issues that they're facing when they are downtown," she said.

They are looking for a new space and hoping Vive Developments can help them find another location, but Dietrich-Bell said moving is not their top priority.

"At this point, the focus remains primarily on providing services for the young folks of Waterloo region," she said.