Vision SoHo Alliance breaks ground on London, Ont. housing project

Mayor Ed Holder (second from right) is joined by representatives and partners of the Vision SoHo Alliance during Friday's groundbreaking ceremony on South Street. Andrew Graham / Global

Hundreds gathered in the London, Ont., SoHo neighbourhood on Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony that was years in the making as the Vision SoHo Alliance celebrated the start of construction for its upcoming affordable housing project.

The alliance, made up of six non-profit housing developers, will build the project on the old Victoria Hospital lands, a property along Hill and South streets between Waterloo and Colborne streets that was purchased for $2 million in September.

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Convened by the London Community Foundation, the alliance’s members are Chelsea Green Home Society, Homes Unlimited, Indwell, Residenza Affordable Housing, London Affordable Housing Foundation and Zerin Development Corporation.

A rendering of Vision SoHo Alliance’s upcoming housing development on the old Victoria Hospital lands, which has opening dates set for 2024 and 2025. supplied by Vision SoHo Alliance

The alliance says the development will provide more than 680 units, over half of which will be rented out at different levels of affordability.

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“The affordable housing will be combined in all of the buildings,” said Martha Powell, the president and CEO of the London Community Foundation.

“There will be mixed-use housing, so you won’t know if the neighbour next door to you is in market housing or affordable housing.”

The affordable units will include homes that are rented out at 80 per cent of market rates and other homes that are below 70 per cent of market rent.

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The bulk of the affordable units will be operated by Indwell, which currently rents out rooms at its other supportive housing programs at $500 per month, to match ODSP rates.

Graham Cubitt, Indwell’s director of projects and developments, says applications for the units won’t open until closer to the building’s opening date. Once they do, it will be a similar process to what’s carried out at the charity’s existing London programs – Woodfield Gate and the soon-to-be-opened Embassy Commons.

“We’re working closely with the City of London, they obviously maintain a lot of different lists that people are on. We also work closely with St. Joseph’s Health Care, for people who are coming out of hospital or other kinds of health programs,” Cubitt added.

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Indwell’s also the only alliance member that will have to redevelop existing buildings – the former Children’s Hospital and the former health services building – for the upcoming project, a process that Cubitt says will require at least a few million dollars in restoration costs.

“There’s going to be probably another six months of work in design to just figure out what exactly needs to be done, but in the meantime (we’ll be) stabilizing them, making sure there’s not water coming in from the roof, making sure the drains are connected so that we don’t have the flooding that’s been happening,” Cubitt added.

The total cost is yet to be finalized, but Greg Playford, a board member with Homes Unlimited, expects to see a price tag of $300 million, leaving the alliance on the hunt for funding partners.

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“We’ll be looking at the senior levels of governments for grants and loans to complete the financing, and of course, city council has made a significant contribution, just over $20 million,” Playford said.

The earliest construction is expected to start before the end of this year with a parking garage that’s essential for laying the foundation for four of the six buildings.

The bulk of the construction will begin in spring of 2023 with completion dates set for 2024 and 2025.

The buildings and their operators

346 South St. – Indwell

  • 96 total units (86 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2025

370 South St. – Zerin Development Corporation

  • 118 total units (96 one-bedroom units and 22 two-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2024

392 South St. – Indwell

  • 42 total units (Mix of studio- and one-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2024

385 Hill St. – London Affordable Housing Foundation

  • 75 total units (41 one-bedroom units, 30 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2025

373 Hill St. – Chelsea Green Home Society

  • 80 total units (28 loft units, 29 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2025

351 Hill St. – Homes Unlimited

  • 93 total units (65 one-bedroom units, 24 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2025

124 Colborne St. – Residenza Affordable Housing

  • 180 total units (98 one-bedroom units and 82 two-bedroom units)
  • Planned opening: 2025

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