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Low-income housing project proposed in Terwillegar area

Click to play video 'Idea for housing project in Terwillegar' Idea for housing project in Terwillegar
Six years after a contentious low-income housing project in Terwillegar was scrapped due to pushback from neighbours, the church behind the proposal has another idea. Kent Morrison explains.

A proposal for a low-income housing project in the Terwillegar area was presented to community members at an open house in the southwest Edmonton neighbourhood Wednesday night.

The Holy Trinity Riverbend Anglican Church is once again proposing a low-income housing development on its property located in the area of 14 Avenue and 156 Street.

“We’re really excited about this project for a number of reasons,” said Cam McDonald, executive director of the Right at Home Housing Society. The community-based, non-profit housing provider is partnering with the church on the project.

“With the land that’s available here, we can provide a real mix of housing alternatives for the community — everything from some mixed-income, affordable, near-market rental housing, some seniors affordable housing and those are the things we’re going to be focused on mostly.”

READ MORE: Affordable housing in Edmonton could be more affordable with less red tape, critics say

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The new proposal comes six years after a controversial plan for subsidized housing on the same site was scrapped. The project received backlash from some residents in Terwillegar and led to a city-wide debate over how supportive housing should be built in the suburbs.

McDonald said part of the public consultation is to show that this project is much different than the one proposed six years ago, but understands if there’s some hesitation from area residents.

READ MORE: Meeting on controversial housing project in Terwillegar Towne leaves residents with unanswered questions

“There is some apprehension in any community about what might happen to property values or crime rates, and there is a lot of evidence and statistics out there that say that actually well-managed, well-thought-out, well-provided affordable housing really does not have a negative impact on the community,” he said.

“I always keep an open mind and I think the community will be open-minded as well and be very welcoming to what we’re proposing. What happened before in the community, that was a long time ago, a very different kind of project.”

READ MORE: Anglican Diocese scraps current housing project in Terwillegar

The new proposal includes 154 units, the majority of which are two- and three-bedroom suites. The housing is geared toward families, with some units for seniors.

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The project will be operated using a mixed-income model, according to the developer. About a quarter of the units will be provided at below-market rental rates for low-income families, the developer said. The other units will be offered at market rental rates.

“This mix allows the project to be self-sustaining with no need for ongoing government subsidies,” the developer said in its proposal for the project.

Darlene Reid is a realtor in Terwillegar Towne. She likes the idea.

“People think low-income housing is going to make the property look neglected and devalue their property. That’s not going to happen with this because of the structure they have with funding it,” Reid said.

READ MORE: Edmonton eyes four 30-unit apartments as next supportive housing step

For Reid, the fact that the proposal also includes daycare and seniors housing is big, since both are lacking in the area.

“The demographic is very young, it’s a lot of young families. There isn’t a lot of the older generation so child care is a huge issue here,” Reid said. “For grandparents who what to live closer to their grandkids or closer to their families this is a great opportunity.”

Reid added that asking for feedback this early in the process will help the community get on board.

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“I think the public here in Terwillegar feels like their opinions matter,” Reid said.

Ward 9 Councillor Tim Cartmell attended the meeting and said this is a strong first step.

“This is very much the beginning of the process and not the end of the process. There will be frequent and ample opportunity for the community to understand what is happening and to voice their concerns,” Cartmell said.

The Right at Home Society will take Wednesday’s feedback and return in the fall for more public meetings with more concrete plans. After public consultation, the developer said it will hire a team to complete the design for the site, which includes traffic and parking impact assessments. The designs will then be submitted for a development permit. The goal is to start construction in 2020.

A draft concept design of a proposed low-income housing development in the Terwillegar area.
A draft concept design of a proposed low-income housing development in the Terwillegar area. Credit, Right at Home Housing Society