Apartments Construction

Not everyone passes through Alcona that often and some visitors to Innisfil Beach Park might also be curious about some current construction in the area. Apogee Apartments is  being built as part of Simcoe County’s effort to create more affordable housing in the county.  It is currently under construction on Innisfil Beach Road at the 25th Sideroad. The project is privately owned and operated. Under an agreement with the County, the units must be rented at ‘affordable’ rates for a minimum of twenty years. CMHC describes “affordable” as less than 30% of a household’s pre-tax income.

Apogee3

This building consists of a mix of 55 apartments on six floors. The ground floor will be allocated to retail spaces fronting on Innisfil Beach Road. Residents will have access to indoor and outdoor “amenities” spaces.  Construction was delayed until the OMB (now called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT) ruled on the builder’s request for altered lot setbacks and a reduced number of parking spaces. These changes were approved.

Floor plans and other information are available on the builder’s website, http://www.apogeeapartments.com

 

 

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How to BILD?

The housing builders association (BILD) regularly lobbies for easier access to more land for more single-family housing in the GTA. They expect an average of 115,000 new residents per year over the next 20 years – a total of 2.5 million more residents in the region.

That will require 55,000 new homes every year according to BILD. They have put forward a four-point plan that includes:

“Fair & equitable fees, taxes and charges”

BILD says these make up 25% of the cost of an average new home. These types of development charges are applied by municipalities to recover the cost of installing basic infrastructure – i.e. water pipes and sewers. Development charges can also be levied by school boards and the county.

“The revenue pays for increased capital costs related to hard and soft services that come as a result of more people and businesses moving into the municipality. For example, the revenue could go toward the construction of new sewer and road systems that might not have been required before. The revenue could also be put toward soft services like new municipal recreation centres and libraries.” (A brief explanation of development charges, Toronto Star, March 2013)

These development charges can vary substantially by municipality. Each municipality decides what’s right for them. I don’t think ‘one size fits all’ is a workable approach. The development charges are collected as housing is built. Municipalities foot the initial infrastructure cost. Historically though, municipalities never catch up with cost recovery.

“Fund & build critical infrastructure”

By that they mean municipalities (i.e. – you) should foot the bill to add new infrastructure over greenfields now without the limitation of sprawl-limiting intensification regulations. Doug Ford’s accidental admission that he was thinking of opening up the Greenbelt to development is an example.

“Cut bureaucratic red tape”

BILD wants a uniform “service standard” to speed up permits and inspections for “building and renovations”.

Adopt new housing solutions

Specifically, BILD refers to laneway housing and secondary suites as ways to “unlock the potential of current neighbourhoods”.

Is that it? I have to wonder if there aren’t more ways to provide more affordable housing? For instance, I have walked through a few local model homes and felt they were really inappropriate to the market. Like the oversized homes, for instance, with “luxury” features, and wasted unusable spaces that were priced around the million dollar mark. Are builders really building for the market? Or building to maximize profit?

Maybe we should (in no particular order):

  • Encourage more relocation to smaller communities
  • Require a better mix of smaller housing
  • Require a better mix of low-rise housing options (I still fondly remember my old walk-up apartment)
  • Research more live/work design possibilities (like the huge residence that was built over a small factory in Toronto)
  • Ban the demolition of existing usable (livable/convertible) buildings
  • Prevent housing speculation through new sales conditions
  • Examine new technologies for basic (water/sewer) infrastructure
  • Examine new technologies to lower construction costs
  • Remove the cost of land from housing developments (I know, think about it)
  • Just wait for us of the ‘boomer’ generation to exit stage left?

Feel free to share your ideas too.

Our Place Plan Nearing Approval

Innisfil Council will consider a staff recommendation to adopt the ‘Our Place’ Official Plan at a Council meeting this Wednesday, January 17 and to take effect subject to approval by the County of Simcoe.

I have previously written about Our Place Plan proposals to create various public gathering and event spaces throughout our town. The Official Plan also covers all of the planning aspects related to development, density, zoning, transportation and so on.

Some of the objectives are:

  • direct the majority of growth to the primary settlement area of Alcona; to direct limited growth to Village settlement areas through intensification and on vacant greenfield lands; to limit growth in Hamlets to infill development.
  • Retail is expected to develop “at an appropriate scale in every primary, urban and village settlement.”
  • Direct higher density residential and mixed uses to the major transit station area surrounding the GO station on the 6th Line …
  • Provide a range of lot sizes and densities, housing types and tenures, provided the scale and massing of development is in keeping with the character of the adjacent neighbourhood.
  • Plan to achieve a minimum intensification target of 33% of all new residential units occurring annually within the delineated built-up areas, or as an alternative target as specified by the County of Simcoe.
  • Protect and maintain stable residential neighbourhoods from infill, intensification and built form which is out of keeping with the physical and heritage character of those neighbourhoods.
  • The progression of development within a settlement area “will be based on a sustainable and logical progression of development in accordance with Provincial County of Simcoe and Town policies.”
  • Neighbourhoods are to be designed with a modified grid street pattern that provides for a high degree of permeability and connectivity …
  • Building design shall incorporate principles of sustainable development and, energy and resource efficiency and may be subject to a sustainable checklist prior to site plan approval …

The full Our Place Official Plan document (429 pages) is available from the Town of Innisfil website.

Passive Design, Active Results

We are slowly learning that we have the knowledge and technology to eliminate a lot of today’s conventional home energy use. The latest example is a passive solar home built in Innisfil. The outstanding feature is that it is built without the need for a conventional furnace. The south facing home is very highly insulated, sealed and uses passive solar gain. It’s no surprise that the builder and owner formerly worked with the Kortwright Centre for Conservation.

I first wrote about passive solar and net-zero energy construction a few years ago so it’s encouraging to know that the concept is finally attracting wider practical application and real world experience under our local conditions. Importantly, municipal authorities are learning to recognize this certification standard.

We’re able to learn about some of the technical details from a recent news article at Simcoe.com (Home builder lives without furnace in passive house, July 13, 2017). The home’s ‘raft’ foundation has a styrofoam base below concrete and the walls are “double stud” allowing for an R65 insulation factor. Notably, the owner says they have “come up with a wall [insulation] system just as efficient without adding significant cost.” Certainly the budgeted cost of ducting and furnace could be applied instead to this use.

An energy recovery ventilation (EVR) unit runs continuously to ensure a proper air circulation and stable temperature within the airtight building envelope. Surprisingly, energy-efficient windows came from Ireland. The article didn’t indicate what distinguished them from so many possible local window suppliers. Solar panels are being added to the home as well.

This type of approach continues to be a ‘pay now or pay later’ proposition. The builder suggests it could be offered as a “luxury option” in subdivisions with a pay-back over 20 years. Otherwise, potential home-buyers could just opt for conventional construction and take a chance with future energy prices or ‘move up’ later when energy efficient techniques become more widely adopted. Passive solar design and ‘net zero’ energy technology makes even more sense for multi-unit construction where the benefits are likely to be more easily achieved.

There is another option. Builders could consider a better trade-off between home size and efficiency. I walked through a builder’s ‘luxury’ model home recently out of curiosity. My wife remarked, “I could be happy with half of this house!” to which another couple immediately responded, “Great! I’ll buy the other half!” Maybe an enterprising builder can recognize an opportunity to make ‘less’ equal ‘more’.

Prices – They Are a Changing

Real estate prices have been in the headlines lately. Buying mania has reached our Innisfil neck of the woods over the last couple of years but I doubt foreign buyers are involved. Looking back over some figures, my property tax increased 73% in the last 16 years (an average of 3.7% per year); “market value” assessment increased by 133% (about 6.3% a year); but the current speculative market value of my property has increased about 500% (or more?) based on real estate agents’ estimates and recent home sales in the area. That’s about 10%/year compounded rate of appreciation.

We get approached about listing our home possibly once a week by mail or in person. I’m told that some real estate agents Continue reading

Places to Grow – in Barrie

McKayPlan1

A public meeting tomorrow in Barrie (council chambers, 7:00 pm) is further proof that Ontario’s Places to Grow strategy to limit urban sprawl is a failure – at least in Simcoe County. It also confirms that Barrie is a city without boundaries and an insatiable appetite for greenfields.

McKayPlan2

“The lands are designated Highway 400 Industrial/Business Park within the City’s Official Plan and are currently zoned Agriculture (AG) in accordance with Zoning Bylaw 054-04 (Innisfil). The owner has applied to amend the current zoning of the property to Highway 400 Industrial with Site Specific exceptions …”  Continue reading