St. John’s city council has approved a recommendation to develop land in the Shea Heights area that could provide affordable housing to about 25 families.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Coun. Gerry Colbert said he hosted a public information session Aug. 27 to discuss the plan to develop 163 Blackhead Rd.
He said there were some concerns expressed about how it would be developed and who would be able to buy the homes, but overall people were encouraged by the idea.
The city owns the 6.3 acres of land, and while it will partner with a developer, the project is not part of the city’s affordable housing program.
Colbert stated it’s a way to provide “attainable housing” for people who may not be able to afford it otherwise.
“We’re not putting it to public tender so that the highest bidder takes the land. That is not happening,” he said.
Colbert said there will be a proposal call and staff will evaluate what comes in and determine the best fit for the neighbourhood.
“The city will be a partner in this from beginning to end. We will not walk away from the project once we select a proponent. We will be there until the houses are finished and the families move in so we will ensure it meets a high level of standard and quality,” he said.
David Blackmore, deputy city manager of planning, development and engineering, said the intent is to make a request for proposals to partner with a private developer to develop the lots as a mixed-use residential development.
He said that includes a range of housing forms — single family homes, apartments, semi-detached town housing.
“We hope the land could be 25 lots, maybe even more, to be promoted as lots available to the public with the city remaining as a partner to get the development of more attainable housing,” said Blackmore.
Ward Coun. Wally Collins said he’s been looking for a place to stimulate growth in the Shea Heights area for a long time.
“A few years back some residents of Shea Heights came to me looking for more housing. Enrolment was down at St. John Bosco and they didn’t want the school to close,” he said.
Collins said with the help of some of those people they looked around the neighbourhood, went to the federal government for land and tried different areas, but they couldn’t find anywhere to develop a small subdivision.
He said then one day he was told the city owned land on Blackhead Road.
“We looked at it and it’s a perfect place. Generally people want us to go ahead. The big concern was they didn’t want five or six people with a lot of money coming up and buying five or six houses. We’re trying to get more children and families up there, basically,” he said.
Colbert said the people of Shea Heights will be part of the discussions as the plan develops, and one day will be part of welcoming new families in their neighbourhood.