Indigenous housing organization looks to partner with Thunder Bay, acquire land for development
Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services's request to be studied by city staff, report due June 18
City administration in Thunder Bay, Ont., will take a closer look at a proposal by a First Nations housing organization to acquire land in the city to build affordable places to live.
There's a huge unmet need for current Indigenous people who are living in Thunder Bay.- Justin Marchand , Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services
Councillors heard a deputation on Monday from Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based organization.
The group is looking for a partnership with the city, and, ideally a plot of land — either donated or offered at a reduced price — in Thunder Bay to, initially, build 20 one-bedroom supportive housing units. The homes would primarily serve Indigenous youth.
"What we presented was options to help fill the gap for Indigenous youth housing in Thunder Bay," Justin Marchand, the executive director of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services told CBC News.
"There's a huge unmet need for current Indigenous people who are living in Thunder Bay."
The city has made similar deals before; in 2017, officials granted property to Matawa First Nations Management for use as a student residence and education centre.
A point-in-time count in 2016 identified nearly 300 people who were homeless; nearly three-quarters identified as First Nation, Métis or Inuit, Marchand said.
Marchand's organization identified four plots of land in Thunder Bay as potential sites for housing:
- A one hectare lot near Junot Avenue and Blucher Crescent
- A three-quarter hectare lot on Empire Avenue W.
- A 1.5 hectare lot at the intersection of Huron Avenue and Hudson Avenue
- A 1.2 hectare lot at Hudson Avenue and Shuniah Street, just south of the Thunder Bay Expressway
Councillors voted Monday to refer the matter to administration for study. City staff is expected to report back on June 18.
Reducing wait lists
While the proposed housing units would be for young, Indigenous people — "an identified high-risk group," Marchand said — adding to the city's housing stock will have benefits across the city.
"Development of additional housing, regardless of who it's serving, will help reduce the wait lists for all people."
Marchand said he'd like to see a multi-phase approach if the initial build goes well. He added that, should the city ultimately give the go-ahead to the project, construction could start by spring, 2019.
"The city has recognized that safe, affordable housing is an issue, the city has recognized the need to provide the right supports to Indigenous youth who are migrating to Thunder Bay," he said.
"So anything that we could do to partner with the city ... and any other partners out there that have the same vision and can see the same need, we'd absolutely love to hear from additional partners."