City Hall’s contribution to the Medicine Hat Community Housing project would amount to $775,000, comprising the gift of land and fees to service the parcel that sits near the Canada Post depot on the main road in central Medicine Hat.
Before approving the motion by an 8-0 count on Monday, council members said they were satisfied the location selected by the agency was near amenities, suitable for residential development and would help low-income Hatters find affordable shelter.
“At very minimum there are 300 people in this community that need (this sort) of housing,” said Coun. Allison Knodel during the discussion.
“The priority is that the people in need have housing, and I see it as a beneficial location. It’s close to schools, despite being in the coulee, and close to nature … It would be a unique area to grow up in.”
Medicine Hat Community Housing, a separate entity from the city, is seeking federal grants to build two townhouse complexes, comprising 40 units, in the first of two similarly sized phases.
The initial ask from the National Housing Strategy is $11 million, but successful applicants must include proof of municipal partnership. If approved, work would need to commence in 18 months.
The site, set back from the road, includes a small group of trees and a set of community garden plots managed by Medicine Hat Food Connections.
It borders on the parking area of the city’s fleet garage, the Canada Post depot, the last remaining single-family lot on the stretch and the Alberta Health Services addictions recovery centre.
Further west, beyond the Third Avenue Hill roadway, lies the municipal works yard,the utility distribution dispatch shop and a recycling depot.
That raised questions about the suitability, but councillors and administrators say the group is confident in the site.
“I’m thrilled with the project, but I have questions,” said Coun. Shila Sharps, citing sidewalks and transportation. “How do we address these needs?”
Brian Mastel, managing director of the public services division, said Medicine Hat Community housing began evaluating sites in the city’s holdings in 2020.
They are satisfied the site is viable for residential development and will meet their needs, plus allow for future expansion.
“They looked at a variety of parcels with Invest Medicine Hat, and focused on proximity to amenities,” said Mastel, who said criteria included proximity to transit routes, grocery stores, park spaces and Medicine Hat College.
“They’re very pleased and eager to move it ahead.”
The site on Kipling is on a transit route, he said, and within 1.5 kilometres of a grocery store (Division Avenue Safeway) and medical facilities. That is slightly closer than at Community Housing’s facility in Southlands.
“I differ to their expertise and how they can maximize the site,” said Coun. Ramona Robins, who represents council on the Community Housing Board and also chairs council’s public services committee.
The land is also near the Seven Persons Creek, but any concerns about flooding could be addressed in building standards, administrators said.
Coun. Robert Dumanowski called it a “tremendous” location and the city’s contribution to leverage federal funds was good news for the local community.
“We’ve done many of these in the past, and there are number of projects that we’ve supported with Medicine Hat Community Housing,”
Coun. Andy McGrogan said the project should be a positive.
“I was concerned about location and wondering if we were wedging it in a place that didn’t fit, but I’ve read the background and am excited to think about future development possibilities there,” he said.
As part of the motion, the city will also transfer $775,000 from the community capital reserve to Invest Medicine Hat’s budget.
That is compensation for the market value of the property (considered to be $350,000) to keep the department’s budget whole, and cover the cost of work done to consolidate lots, subdivide the site, as well as provide utility servicing.
Medicine Hat News – December 21, 2022