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Timmins transfers 5 properties to local social service board for $1

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Timmins city council is transferring five properties to the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) for only $1 for use in future housing projects.

One of three vacant lots being transferred from the City of Timmins to the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board for only $1 as part of a five property deal recommended by city staff. (Sergio Arangio/CTV News Northern Ontario)The decision was made at the Feb. 6 meeting after some for the “nominal amount” of $1 during Tuesday night’s meeting, but not without some animated discussions.

It was the eventual decision of city council that given the growing issue of vacant properties owned by out-of-town corporations that a local agency would hopefully ensure these properties are used properly.

CDSSAB will pay a single dollar for three empty lots on Balsam Street North, Father Costello Drive and Sixth Avenue and two existing residential buildings on Elm Street North and Montgomery Avenue. The five properties have an assessed value of about $235,000 but have outstanding municipal debts from property taxes and by-law charges of more than $315,000.

More information on the properties can be found in the city staff’s report presented to council here.

Local housing shortage

While Timmins is grappling with a housing shortage some concerns expressed concerns about the implications of the transfer.

“We’re helping the affordable housing sector,” said Ward 5 councillor Steve Black.

“But we’re also removing units from the private sector, serviced lots.”

Some on council questioned staff if re-listing the properties would help generate revenue and boost housing stock – however, city officials said the housing crisis is at a point where social housing may be the most responsible hands to ensure more units are developed.

Out-of-town owners a problem

City clerk Steph Palmateer told council that companies from southern Ontario own a sizeable number of vacant and poorly kept rentals in the area.

“They don’t give a damn, they don’t respond,” said the clerk.

“They don’t have a problem buying properties and keeping them vacant and boarded up. We know the CDSSAB is not going to go bankrupt, we know they’re going to develop housing units that will be there. We also know that they’ll be maintained.”

This all comes as a larger real estate holder in the region that owns more than 200 vacant properties in northern Ontario – including some in Timmins – has recently filed for creditor protection.

The situation has led some councillors to be concerned about the buying power of these companies from the south, citing failed bids by locals.

“The neighbours who were interested in the property just couldn’t compete with that and I worry about that happening again and again, and us not having some autonomy over what’s happening in our community and just having vacant properties,” said Ward 5 councillor Kristin Murray.

During the meeting, council discussed if there were ways to prevent companies from buying properties with no commitment to use them.

“Can we put a time frame, whoever buy the property or whoever buys this building or this business, it has six months,” asked Ward 4 councillor John Curley.

The full council meeting can be viewed on the city’s website.

Council is ensuring new housing units in the area

According to city staff, CDSSAB plans to renovate the two existing buildings for use by the fall and the transfer requires the social services board to draft proposals for projects on the three vacant lots to be completed over the next two years.

It would appear Timmins city council is keen on giving some properties to agencies they are confident are going to add to the local housing stock after also donating land to Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services for the building of affordable units last year.

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