Brockville council hears potential action plan to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis in Leeds and Grenville

Brockville City Hall – Cris Vilela/Brockvilleist

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 25, Brockville City Council received a delegation from Graham Cubbitt from Flourish, and Director of Community and Social Services Alison Tutak, regarding an action plan to end homelessness and address the housing crisis in Leeds and Grenville (L&G) region. 

The action plan delivered to the council was created by Flourish, a real estate company based in Hamilton, Ont., which “supports clients such as municipalities, non-profits, faith communities and other organizations to create affordable housing solutions that promote community well-being.”

The plan was presented to Brockville City Council by Flourish president Graham Cubitt, who suggested a series of steps to design programs and construct 150 permanent supportive housing apartments within the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG).  Cubitt is also the Director of Projects & Development for Indwell, a Christian charity organization that creates supportive housing opportunities.

“Approximately a couple of years ago, we started our conversations with Indwell at that time and it was our MPP Steve Clark who helped link us up knowing our long-term goal of creating more supportive housing in our community,” Tutak explained in her introduction.  

Tutak continued, “It is through research and experience that we know that supportive housing is critical for addressing homelessness.” She then listed recent data accumulated within L&G to support their need for this action plan, stating that the by-name (of known local homeless people) list is currently at 120 people, the highest number ever seen. 

She stated that over 30 people from this list have been homeless for more than 31 months in the community and 74 per cent require high-intensity support. 53 per cent of individuals on the by-name list identify as having mental health challenges, and a further 40 per cent have substance abuse challenges. 

Tutak confirmed that the counties are experiencing a 34 per cent recidivism rate, meaning that the individuals they can find housing for will end up returning to homelessness after three to four months.

“We need the help of experts to help guide us towards possible solutions for supportive housing,” she said. 

Cubitt then joined the conversation via Zoom, and started by expressing his familiarity with the difficult situation council faces.

“We know homelessness is no longer a unique issue just with big cities,” Cubitt said. “Now across Ontario, we see street homelessness, encampments, the opioid crisis and all these factors and situations are not familiar to any council.”

He continued, “I appreciate the frustration and anxiety that you face even at a local level so I do hope the work that we do will contribute to relieving some of that anxiety but also pointing in the direction that is action-oriented.” 

Cubitt shared that through his time at Indwell and Flourish, he has seen that not only is there a large lack of adequate living spaces available for vulnerable populations, but there is especially a lack of affordable spaces. He believes that high-intensity supports need to be integrated into the housing from the beginning so that those individuals don’t lose their community and they can access health care services directly from their homes.

The idea is that by facilitating these supportive housing apartments, the L&G region can practically and functionally eliminate the current by-name priority list. L&G, in collaboration with Flourish, have identified three viable properties in Brockville that would be possible development opportunities for building these housing complexes. 

The first property for discussion is Brockville’s former Water Pollution Control Centre administrative building. This is located at 1805 County Road 2; it is currently being leased to a private school and utilized as a student residence, but will become available in 2024. 

According to the report, “This property is an excellent candidate for a specialized supports program. The building is ideally sized with a layout conducive to rapid and cost-effective adaptive reuse. An assessment of the existing floor plans suggests potential for 15 one-bedroom apartments plus staff offices, tenant amenity and health/programming spaces and a service station to accommodate a daily meal program.”

The second potential location suggested by Flourish is a privately owned property in central Brockville referred to as “Property A.” The property is a vacant commercial site that requires a zoning by-law amendment to permit a multi-residential project. 

The report suggests this site be used as an ‘enhanced supports program,’ stating “ this site has good access to public transit, groceries and other retail, and other community services. Initial assessments suggest that 45 apartments are optimal on this site with onsite parking, indoor and outdoor amenity space, and program spaces and offices for staff.”

The third suggestion is located at 166 Pearl Street East, and is the current Commonwealth Public School; however, the school will be closing down at the end of this school year. This site will also require a zoning by-law amendment to permit multi-residential development. 

The report elaborates, “This property is beside the new Brockville General Hospital and surrounded by residential neighbourhoods and industrial businesses…Its proximity adjacent to the hospital provides an ideal opportunity for reducing service duplication through integrated healthcare delivery.”

The report continues, “Flourish envisions the potential for a two-phase development of two programs at this site. The first phase would convert the existing Commonwealth PS building; preliminary estimates show the potential for up to 40 apartments.”

Below are the total contribution amounts needed by various sources to develop the four projects on the three sites proposed.

  • Community donations: $3,000,720 
  • Municipal co-investment: $6,851,910 
  • MMAH capital investment: $22,500,000 
  • CMHC grants: $11,610,000 
  • CMHC financing: $11,271,760 

GRAND TOTAL: $55,234,390

Flourish suggested that the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville would need to commit to spending approximately $6.8 million dollars if they want to enact this comprehensive housing strategy. The company also suggested a uniform contribution of $150,000 per unit from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and various other grants from the existing srovince-wide housing investment programs such as the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) and the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP). 

The full Action Plan can be accessed online at https://brockville.civicweb.net/FileStorage/77C57F2AADA848FBB40CEDAF77B57E1A-Finding%20Home%20in%20UCLG%20Flourish%20Report%202024%2002%2028.pdf


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