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Will Halton Hills and Residents Support Support House? Town to Weigh on New Development for Acton

On July 5 the Town of Halton Hills will be holding a Statutory Public Meeting to “inform and consult with the public” about an application, made by Support House to develop 47 Maria Street, in Acton.


Life house, as it is known, is a five bedroom, congregate setting for youth 16 to 24 with Residential Councillors 7 days a week. The proposal is to develop a 2-storey residential building containing 12 (1 bedroom) affordable housing units, 3 of them accessible, an amenity room (a community room with a kitchenette) and a small office for support staff.


Support House held a drop in Zoom meeting on June 8 to talk to residents. They delivered notices to 51 homes within a 120m radius of support house. Copies of these notices were subsequently posted at all local mailboxes by an unknown source. The meeting was attended by approximately 25 residents, as well as 3 representatives for Support House and a few Halton Hills staff and Councillors.


“This is an evidence based approach” Paul Gregory, Executive Director Support House, tells Acton UP while discussing the meeting summary he provided Acton UP.


Highlights from that presentation include:


  • “The units will all be self-contained apartments, and residents will need to be able to live independently, and they can access necessary supports provided by Support House staff or a qualified community partner. "


  • Support House is moving away from the current model of providing transitional housing for youth on Maria Street and instead will be offering permanent, self-contained housing that is intended for those of all ages who can live independently.


  • Support House plans to provide direct support to the residents 7 days a week and will also have an onsite “key tenant” on a 24/7 basis.


  • All residents will pay rent and sign a Residential Tenancies Act lease. A Support Agreement is included that outlines a resident’s obligations.”


Many concerns were raised in the meeting and a petition called “Stop The Support House” was started by an individual identified only as “J R” on change.org. A John Richardson who we assume to be ‘JR’ reached out to Acton UP via website about this topic but did not return our calls.


The petition claims that:


“There are currently 13 addiction and mental health residences located within Acton. Based on Acton's population of 10,000 people, this is the highest per capita in Halton Region (Oakville, Burlington, Milton, Georgetown).


The Support House intends for their residents with mental health and substance abuse problems to reintegrate back into society via employment. One would think cities like Georgetown, Milton, Burlington, and Oakville would have better job opportunities, more mental health & substance abuse resources, and less expensive transit services, which are vital for those reintegrating through employment. There is minimal job opportunity and resources in Acton and the GO Train & Bus are less than ideal for transit costs.


The Support House was given a $3 Million grant to build a new facility. Why does the Support House feel it's okay to uproot and move current residents who desperately need stability? Why does the Support House feel it's okay to increase the size of a facility in a town with minimal job opportunities and resources? Why does the Support House not care more for these individuals?”


Petition signers echo these concerns with comments like:


  • “There are to [sic] many of these types of facility in Acton already. A lot of young kids in that area.”


  • “As is, the 5 unit residence causes enough problems. Break-ins to vehicles, trespassing and domestic disturbances will only increase.


  • "How will this impact York house right next door? Are the parents who use the the daycare down the street going to be comfortable bringing their children near the environment these types of places create? How will this effect property value?"


  • "There is very little support in the area for this type of service and even less opportunities to help reintegrate back into society? "


  • "The current service has caused more issues than it has solved, so why is it a good idea to almost triple its capacity?”


Acton UP also spoke to long time Poplar Avenue residents who support this change. David Eagen has lived on the street for over 30 years and doesn’t remember a time when 47 Maria didn’t serve as transitional housing. He considers the proposal an “upgrade to single units with a 7/24 (person on site).” Eagan does concede “The timelines seem aggressive”. Things his neighbours complained about around safety and drug use he said, “I haven’t experienced myself”. “We have a shortage of a variety of services in Acton and Halton Hills and this isn’t going to solve all that. But the fact that they are looking at upgrading property they already own and making it more beneficial long-term….seems like a reasonable expansion.”


Jeff Markowiack, MCIP, RPP, Director of Development Review, Planning & Development, Town of Halton Hills and John McMulkin, MCIP, RPP, Planner, Development Review, Planning & Development Department, addressed some confusion over the $3million grant explaining that Halton Region has committed to that funding, not the Town. The region has money to allocate for affordable living options. The region however does not participate in the Town’s approval process, which is far from a done deal as some people seem to fear.


Markowiak outlined the approval process further:


“Support House has submitted Planning applications for 47 Maria Street to the Town of Halton Hills seeking to amend the Town’ Official Plan and Zoning By-law. The intent of the applications are to try and obtain approval to allow for the construction of the proposed two-storey 12-unit residential building that would provide affordable accommodation for individuals with special needs (mental health and addiction).

In the Province of Ontario land owners have the right to submit Planning applications to a municipality requesting to change the land use policies applicable to their site in order to advance proposed projects. Upon submission the applications are circulated to various Town Departments (ie. Planning, Engineering, Buildings, Transportation, Recreation & Parks) and external agencies (ie. the Region of Halton) for review to identify any concerns or issues with the proposal. In regards to the 47 Maria Street applications, the review is in the early stages of the process.


Notification of submission of the Planning applications is circulated to property owners in the neighbourhood and a sign posted on the property. Members of the community are also invited to a Statutory Public Meeting held before Town Council where the proposal is outlined and residents are given the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the applications. The Public Meeting for the 47 Maria Street applications is scheduled for July 5, 2021; no decision regarding the applications is made at this Public Meeting.


Later in the application review process, once Town staff have completed their review, the applications are once again brought before Town Council. Staff prepare a Report that recommends approval or refusal of the applications based on their professional opinion regarding the proposal’s consistency with Provincial policy, achievement of strategic direction in the Town’s Official Plan, matters that could affect the suitability of the proposal for the site, and impact on the surrounding community, amongst other things. However, it is Town Council who has the final authority to approve or refuse the Planning applications. It should be noted that any Applicant or affected party does have the right to appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) to serve as the final decision authority on the proposal.”


Paul Gregory, from Support House, reminds us that “1 in 5 people will experience mental health issues” and that this will offer a marginalized population safety, choice and affordable long term housing. “This is an apartment like across the road, not a boarding house, not a facility, but an apartment that offers support. It brings support in to the community.” In response to the petitions accusations about uprooting residents


Gregory answers that they “will be transitioned thoughtfully” and that they have also reviewed the plans for the new facility and are excited about it.


Gregory hopes everyone will take time to read the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s report “Overcoming opposition to affordable housing” which addresses NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) and dispels common nimby myths. http://www3.ohrc.on.ca/en/zone-housing-human-rights-and-municipal-planning/overcoming-opposition-affordable-housing


This is sure to be a lively debate. To participate in the zoom meeting at 6pm, on July 5,you can join at www.zoom.us/j/99773702542 or by calling 647-558-0588. Zoom ID is 997 7370 2522. If you wish to be notified of the decision the Town of Halton Hills makes you must make a request in writing to:


Town of Halton Hills Planning & Development Department

1 Halton Hills Drive

Halton Hills, ON

L7G 5G2


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