A group that wants to build a 46-unit apartment building on Murphy Road near Michigan says that half the units would be affordable to low-income seniors.
“Sarnia really needs places where people can afford to live,” says Heather Martin of Wellington Ridge Developments.
Women over 60 are “particularly hard hit” by the city’s high rents, she said.
“They’re often widowed or divorced without a pension and living on less than $18,000 a year.”
With rent for a one-bedroom hovering around $1,200 a month, many low-income and older women are under-housed in poorly maintained units or forced to live with children, she said.
Martin was involved with construction of Wellington Flats on Wellington Street, which has 19 affordable units and another 17 apartments renting at market value. Wellington Flats opened in October 2019, filled quickly, and has a waiting list of 51 people hoping to get housing there.
“It’s been a huge success. We had no idea the magnitude of the (housing) problem,” said Martin.
Wellington Ridge Developments is now acting on behalf of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, which has extra land at 1299 Murphy Rd. and wants to build a project similar to Wellington Flats.
The church proposes a $12-million, six-storey apartment building with 23 one-bedroom units renting for about $750. The other 23 units would rent at market value.
The proposal hinges on city council approving zoning and official plan amendments, as well as securing 95% of the funding from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment program. CMHC funding obligates St. Demetrios to provide 51% of the units at an affordable rate.
Some of the church’s neighbours are objecting strongly. Twenty-two attended a public meeting in August and several sent letters to council’s Oct. 25th meeting.
The area north of Michigan is single residential and a large apartment building will create privacy and traffic problems, the neighbours say.
“The building will be the highest structure within a three kilometre driving radius of the proposed site,” one neighbour wrote. “A total eyesore. It will invade the privacy and enjoyment of many of the properties on Severin Dr. South, Severin Dr. North, Camelot Crescent and properties to the north on Murphy Road, as residents of the apartment building would be able to look directly into the back and front yards and in some cases, bedroom windows.”
The same letter added: “…this application seems to have overlooked one important factor. PEOPLE.”
“It’s troubling when the intention of the project is to help people in need,” said Brian Mundt of Wellington Ridge.
“We are looking out for the best interests of the community,” added Martin. “We have a wide variety of people in Sarnia who need a variety of housing types and we have identified that seniors are a group in need.”
Mundt and Martin said they hope to make changes to the plan that will address the neighbours’ concerns.
The proposal is expected to return to council on Dec. 13.