Hydro delay could price buyers out of new homes
15 homes in Smiths Falls, Ont., stand ready for families, but await hydro connections
A group of new eastern Ontario homebuyers have endured months of delays, and climbing interest rates could put their dreams in peril.
The tidy, two-storey Parkview-built townhouses in the Smiths Falls Bellamy Farm subdivision have been standing virtually completed and ready for residents for weeks.
What all 15 units lack, however, is a hydroelectric power line to feed the new subdivision.
Logan Sarch, who has waited almost a year for a move-in date, says the experience has gone from dream home to "a giant bundle of stress" for him and fiancée Michelle Lavallee.
Parkview can't give him a move-in date, so Sarch can't get his financing locked in. With interest rates continuing to rise, that means his mortgage payments will be more expensive than he initially anticipated — hundreds of dollars more per month.
"I would have never believed it, it's just so shocking," said Sarch, who works in construction and has watched other projects come up after Bellamy Farm Phase 2 began and reached completion.
Parkview Homes CEO Andrew Cinnamon declined an interview, but in an email admitted, "the process has become ridiculously difficult and slow on many fronts."
'Heartbreaking' wait to move in
Last week, buyers Sarch, Lyn Beasant and Rob Pretty converged on the site of what will one day be their shared neighbourhood to commiserate about the delays.
Beasant and her 18-year-old son have been forced from short-term apartments four times while waiting for their new home to be available.
She, too, has watched mortgage rates double and worries she will be priced out of her house.
"I used to drive by because I wanted to see the progress, because it was exciting. I don't [drive by] now because it's heartbreaking," said Beasant.
Underground wires, buyers tired
Shortages of labour and building materials caused some of the delays and securing the town permits needed to begin the 165-unit subdivision caused more.
Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa said the delay on the project, and any role the power company had played in it, "is unacceptable to us."
Nobody blames Hydro One, but rather a decision made by Smiths Falls council on June 27.
On the suggestion of town councillor Nicki Dwyer, council agreed a power line feeding the new homes from nearby Highway 15 would blend into the environment better and be more resilient to storms if it was buried underground.
The majority of council agreed, with meeting chairperson Wendy Alford even declining to seek a cost breakdown from Hydro One for the more expensive underground line, since "we won't be picking up the tab for it."
"Council basically didn't care — there was no consideration for us," said Pretty, whose daughter and young family were awaiting a move-in date.
Municipal staff discovered that at some point in the 1980s, a fence and parking lot were built on the municipally-owned right-of-way now needed for the power line extension to the subdivision.
Jeffrey Kyle, the president of Leisure Days RV centre who now has a franchise on the property, said his company wasn't aware it had been encroaching and was working with the town and Hydro One to move stock and pull up the fence in order for trenching work to begin.
"My heart goes out to those people," said Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow.
Pankow said Monday a temporary line to the 15 homes was being implemented, while work on the permanent buried line was to begin imminently.
"We want them occupied, we want people in those homes."