The LoveSong Seniors Housing and Community Hub may soon become a reality. The group has until January 2020 to purchase the former Pinecrest Memorial Elementary School from the municipality and begin construction.
For over eight years, Ken How, along with his team from Emmanuel Baptist Church, have dreamed of being able to offer affordable housing in the County. When Pinecrest closed its doors in 2017, the location jumped out to How and the others as being ideal for an affordable housing facility.
How stated this will not be a nursing home or simply apartments. Instead, LoveSong will be a co-housing unit, as can be found in places like Denmark.
“A lot of preliminary ground work has been done in advance of anything structural, because it is still owned entirely by the County and we are their partners,” said How.
He asserts the group has done all necessary due diligence, including environmental assessments, several rounds of business plans/reports, a septic analysis and more.
“The next step is gaining ownership of the building. Our partner is the County, who presently has the key and ownership from the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board through the disposition of property procedure,” explained How.
With regards to zoning, How stated the County has agreed to change the designation from educational/institutional to high density residential.
How hopes the project will develop in phases where 50 units are just Phase One and additional units can be constructed on the property’s 20 acres.
Initially, the group plans to accommodate seniors-a contingent of society he describes as being all at once incredibly fragile and more silent than others about their struggles with housing.
In the future, affordable housing would be offered for various age groups.
And although the vision for LoveSong has been carried out by a church group, How asserts that the facility will accommodate a “wide ranging dynamic of people.”
Having both an aging and growing population in Prince Edward County has added fuel to an already scorching housing market. But How points out this problem has been known for some time and is gradually getting worse.
“In other communities, it’s an easier thing because there’s public housing available. We have the worst, lowest vacancy rate anywhere,” stated How. “One comment is, the County has experienced a lot of private rental housing. There is a limited supply of social housing despite sustained demand,” stated How, citing a PEC Strategic Action Plan for Affordable Housing. “The rising cost of housing has eroded affordability in the local housing market and there is a lack of emergency housing for those who need assistance. With an aging population, there is a limited supply of seniors’ housing, accessible housing, supportive housing etc.”
How commented that the report, which was from 2010, was written before the proliferation of Airbnbs and he questions how that has further impacted the housing market.
“I read that report to council about how there was such a shortage of housing and how the County needs to address it,” added How. “We’ve known this is a problem and not been able to address it because who on Earth would build affordable housing when you can build condos and sell them for $500,000. They’re taking the housing facility that was affordable and converting it to condos. Why not? That’s a great money maker, but there’s many spin-off problems from doing that.”
It’s great for the economy, noted How, as well as the contractors and owners of the building. But, he said, it’s not good for those who hope to dwell in the area.
How is hoping that community partners will come forward to help take some of the responsibility for costs and renovation of the old school.
“We are our brother’s keeper. It takes a village to raise a child and I think that same village needs to look at the vulnerable seniors in the community,” How said.
With the deadline for How and his team fast approaching, the Gazette reached out to the municipality for a comment with regards to current state of the affordable housing project.
“The municipality continues to have a partnership agreement with LoveSong Seniors Housing and Community Hub group. Both parties agreed that LoveSong has until January 10, 2020 to purchase the property from the municipality,” read their statement. “The municipality does not wish to comment on the status of LoveSong’s fundraising efforts.”
For more information about this project, please visit: https://www.lovesonghousing.org/.