Little opposition to Habitat for Humanity project at public planning meeting

ELORA – A Habitat for Humanity proposal for a townhouse complex at 465 Garafraxa St. W. in Fergus was met with little opposition at a public meeting on March 29.

The organization is proposing to build a stacked townhouse complex with 32 units – 14 four-bedroom, 14 three-bedroom and four two-bedroom units.

“This is the mix we need,” said planner Andrew Head, of Dryden, Smith and Head Planning Consultants on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.

“I take joy in this part.”

The land, on Garafraxa Street West near Beatty Line, is zoned future development and is currently vacant.

The zoning change application calls for higher density than usual but aspires to provide affordable housing.

Some of the units would be sold at market value while others would be reserved for families selected by the organization and allow them entry into homeownership.

Kathy Baranski lives a few doors down from the proposed site and while she supports Habitat projects in principle, she was concerned that there were no sidewalks in the plan.

“Since Storybrook has opened (a new subdivision further north on Beatty Line), traffic on Garafraxa is very busy and there doesn’t appear to be any sidewalks,” she said.

“Especially with families living there, there should be sidewalks on at least one side of the street.”

Baranski also thought the green space on the plan was not big enough.

“It doesn’t look like there are places to play,” she said.

Her third issue is with drainage. She already has some flooding in her backyard from the existing stormwater pond, she said.

Head said Habitat for Humanity will install a required sidewalk.

He also noted the land will be re-graded and will flow towards Garafraxa Street, not anyone’s backyard.

As for green space, “We have to look at the greater good,” he said.

“We don’t have the luxury of charging big dollars for these homes. When it comes to green space, there could be a shortfall.”

Habitat’s executive director Steve Howard said three local service clubs have expressed interest in helping with the project in some way.

Playground equipment for the green space might be possible with their assistance.

“Once we’re further down this road, we’ll have a process,” he said.

Howard noted Habitat for Humanity has received 90 applications for the units – almost three times the number available.

As much as possible, Habitat homes are built with volunteer labour. The selected families are required to volunteer 500 hours to the project.

Howard said the federal government is providing $50,000 per unit through its affordable homes strategy, which will also keep costs down.

“It’s such a good thing you are going for affordable housing in this area,” said councillor Denis Craddock. “Thank you.”

No decisions were made at this meeting.

The matter will return to council at a future date.