TIMMINS -- The Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board in Timmins is continuing with its plan to offer more affordable housing throughout the district.

The board has been acquiring and redeveloping properties to make them suitable for residential and commercial tenants.

Brian Marks, chief administrative officer for the board, told CTV News that the Laroplex building at the corner of Spruce Street South and Third Avenue in the heart of the downtown is going to look much different as soon as winter is over and construction season begins.

He said “absentee landlords have not taken care of their units” in recent years, but that’s about to change.

“As you can see, taking care of units means different things to different people," Marks said. "The fact that the DSSAB staff live and work in our municipality including Timmins, we take ownership in all of our properties. We already house 500 people in Timmins alone and we take good care of our properties.”

Without leveraging municipal tax dollars, and by taking advantage of the current real estate market, he said the board has bought the Laroplex building along with about five others.

The plan is to create affordable and market-rent opportunities for people who want to live downtown and in other popular parts of the city.

“Our operation focuses on much more than just homelessness ... it’s also focused on economic development, which really creates the long-term sustainable solutions for all of our communities, especially Timmins," Marks said.

Destination of choice

"We want it to be a destination of choice for people so we want to focus on creating housing at every level of the economic spectrum so we can attract people and retain people.”

Downtown Timmins officials said buildings with a variety of businesses and residents under the same roof have a proven track record for stimulating the economy.

"Well it's a great benefit because when you have residential and commercial blended, residents will always require services,” said Cindy Campbell, executive director of Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area.

"They'll require grocery stores, they'll require restaurants, they like to have their dry cleaners close. They like to have services very close. They don't usually have vehicles. So when you have pedestrian traffic, you're going to have a need for services to service them."

The Cochrane District Social Services Board is in year six of its 10-year housing and homelessness plan. This is the start of the development phase in Timmins.

Marks said the board is looking forward to making its new properties look good to generate pride in the city, adding that it also has similar plans for other municipalities in the district.