Report on Municipal Land for Affordable Housing

When the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for Affordable Housing was approved by Council in November 2020, Council added a requirement for “staff to put together an inventory of potential municipal owned surplus lands, buildings and/or facilities by March 22, 2021”.  This was done but then Staff recommended that an Ad Hoc committee be formed “to undertake a shortlist exercise and formalize an implementation plan moving forward.”  This committee’s report will be provided at the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on 15 November; they will provide a list of five priority sites and three secondary priority locations.  Few could be called surplus – in fact the three secondary sites are public parks.  The committee recommends further public consultation and staff evaluation as to their suitability.

The first thing to note is that for most locations, it is proposed that only part of the area be used so that NO Park Facilities are removed.  So the recommended reduction of park space is not as bad as it first appears.  Here is a table of the recommended sites – see Appendix II in links below for more detail.

Summary of Recommended Properties

Note that this short list does not include locations that are unusable because they are flood plains or occupied by Town facilities such as Victoria Hall. It also does not include properties not owned by the Town such as Brookside. See the full report in the link below for more details.

Property Size Proposal Priority
Tracey Park, 196 Spencer St. East 1.97 ha The south-eastern section has potential for modest infill without displacing existing facilities. Perhaps partner with Columbus centre. Priority
Charles Street Parking Lot – 17 Charles St. 0.05 ha A modest residential infill project is possible here. The loss of the current 18 space surface parking lot may be a problem. Priority
Cobourg Police Station/Hibernia St. Parking Lot 0.38 ha A modest infill using creative design techniques could be implemented on the southern 1/3 of the property. However loss of all this public parking would result. Priority
Tannery Property – 96 Alice St. 2.7 ha A comprehensive master planning exercise is underway to map out the future long term development of the greater Tannery District. Once the Secondary Plan is adopted, this site would be a prime candidate for residential intensification, particularly affordable housing. Priority
Heenan and Memorial Arenas – 206 Furnace St. 1.2 ha The Memorial arena is currently un-used and its re-use/re-purposing is currently being assessed by an Ad Hoc Working Group/Committee.  The southern section of the property, including new development on the vacant area and/or the adaptive re-use of the existing arena, could be a good candidate for residential intensification. Priority
Westwood Park – 665 Carlisle St. 3.13 ha Some infill potential exists along the Carlisle Street frontage with minor displacement of park facilities. Secondary
Morley Cane Park – 67 Ballantine St. 1.9 ha Some infill potential exists along the road frontage without displacing existing facilities. Secondary
Peter Delanty Park – 29 Coverdale Ave. 2.6 ha There is infill potential in the north 1/3 of the site without displacing existing facilities. Secondary

Note: One hectare (ha) equals 2.47 acres.

Most properties need evaluation by staff of sewer availability and capacity plus storm water management requirements.  Most will also need re-zoning.

I would think that there’s still a lot of work ahead before land can be used for low cost housing.  My understanding of the idea is that the Town donate the land to a developer with the condition that the new housing will be “affordable”. Since affordable housing is a County responsibility, this will mean extensive cooperation with the County.

The recommended next step is for Council to “to carefully examine the potential infill sites with respect to suitability, serviceability and other physical limitations, development potential, and to consider the opportunities and impacts on area neighbourhoods and the greater community. In addition, it is recommended that Council implement a comprehensive community consultation and engagement plan to obtain public feedback on the short-listed inventory prior to arriving at a decision.”


Related Links

Previous Posts on Cobourg News Blog

Addendum – Nov 16

At the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on 15 November, Council agreed to get community engagement and that the final results would be reported back to Council by mid-March 2022.

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2 years ago

Imagine living beside or across from a park and then they building housing on it. I’m all about due diligence when purchasing a property but who in their right mind would ever expect that to happen?

Reply to  Ahewson
2 years ago

Yes, I think I can imagine that. Imagine living on a 70 year old street and having a sidewalk built across the front of your property where your children play. One factor in the decision, the proximity to a bus stop, has changed by getting rid of regular bus service. At least housing is needed. In a few decades there will be much less gas powered vehicular traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists can use the streets in greater safety. Increasing housing density, smaller more energy efficient homes and human powered transport will all help reduce green house gas emissions.

2 years ago

Its not like Staff need any more ‘make-work’ projects. The latest org review established all sorts of sentiments that Staff was overworked and had low moral. Why has Council inflicted one more of these projects on Staff? The requirement was for “staff to put together an inventory of potential municipal owned surplus lands, buildings and/or facilities by March 22, 2021”. This has been done. Yes Council accepted a County accountability to use CIP for Affordable Housing and so I understand the need to list acceptable areas (Cobourg territory if you will). That is where the effort should stop. The rest of the efforts: Assessments, recommendations (prep, delivery, etc), examining “suitability and serviceability”, public engagements, etc should all be to the account of the County. Let them spend their budget (resources, time, money) putting together this plan. I just don’t get it.

2 years ago

Last time I checked, they aren’t making new farmland or parkland…I wouldn’t recommend a decision that would further erode an already disappearing resource, like parks for children to be active in. Tread lightly feel good town officials….

2 years ago

I have quite often seen children playing at the playground at Tracey Park and have often seen groups using the ball diamond there too.

Apart from a few people running their dogs at the Donegan ball diamond, I have never seen anyone using the ball park. Why has this location not been considered?

Reply to  CiW
2 years ago

Donegan hosts organized, minor baseball games and practices as does Tracey Park…

Mrs. Anonymous
2 years ago

As many others have said in previous discussions, this is not a municipal responsibility.

I hope that in the next municipal election, there will be candidates running on a platform that includes sticking to municipal responsibilities only. They would get my vote.

Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
2 years ago

The list of suggested surplus Town properties is interesting in that there is property available for purposes like this. Since all of the properties are parks or parking lots, Cobourgers will have to decide if their need for parking or parks outweighs the need for “affordable” (whatever that means) housing. In Cobourg, a two bedroom 800 sqft unit can cost upwards of $2K per month and more.
Part of the issue is defining what is meant by “affordable”. The County has its definition and CHMC another. The current development at University and William (Balder) provides for some (15 or so) “affordable” units out of the 70. Both CMHC and the Town gave concessions to the developer. The concessions were not pro-rated according to the number of “affordable” units. The rent for these units has not been published so far.
CMHC’s incentive is predicated on rent for the “affordable” units being 80% of the average local market rent. (CMHC survey). At October 2020, CMHC reported that a 2 bdrm Cobourg apartment rented for $1,228 on average. In Port Hope, the average rent reported was $1,277. Therefore, in Cobourg, CMHC affordable rent is $982. I assume that the County’s “affordable” rent is less.
Cobourg could go about this in several ways:

  • sell surplus land to the County and let them deal with the issue. As the upper tier municipality, it is their mandated responsibility, not Cobourg’s
  • sell land to developers at a “bargain” price (bid/tender) with a stipulated rent target, no CIP and no sale/transfer for 10 years.
  • Sell land at market and provide incentives (CIP) with a stipulated rent target and no sale/transfer for 10 years.

This is an important directional step for Cobourg and extensive early public engagement must be part of the process, as mandated by the Town’s public engagement policy. 

Last edited 2 years ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
2 years ago

Bryan can you point to any available 2BR units for $1228? if this is the median then what were the high and low numbers? Sounds like a fantasy to me!

Reply to  ben
2 years ago

Rent of $1228 is the average currently being paid for 2BR. It includes apartments that have been rented to the same tenant for a number of years. I know of one that has been rented since about 1974. Rents may have increased from year to year but that is controlled and is often less than 2% per year. If one of these apartments becomes available the new rent could be the same, lower, or higher than the rent paid by the vacating tenant. Likely much higher for an apartment that has had the same tenant for many years.

Reply to  ben
2 years ago


Agree with Kevin. The CMHC average rent is for occupied units, not ones available to rent. This presents a skewed picture of the rental market where market rent is significantly higher than occupied rent. CMHC glosses over this point somewhat, as their definition of “average” rent is not easy to find.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bryan