Building Magazine


Build affordable housing on surplus government land, says Home Ownership Alternatives

Home Ownership Alternatives (HOA) has released a policy proposal that calls on the Province of Ontario to sell surplus government land on a priority basis and set up a process that would result in affordable housing redevelopment on this under-utilized government land.  

“The Province has control of some great sites for redevelopment and they can get affordable housing built without a major cost to government” said Joe Deschênes Smith from HOA. “We’ve been successful in redeveloping government sites and in each case the government received market value for the land.” 

“A process to make surplus government land available in support of affordable housing has several advantages for the Province. Many surplus sites are located in urban areas where infill developments will not require new infrastructure and transit and where housing that is affordable can be blended into existing, stable neighbourhoods,” says Barb Millsap, president, Ontario Council, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

The proposal includes three case studies that describe the HOA-financed redevelopment of government owned sites in Guelph, Kitchener Waterloo and Toronto. The proposal has been submitted to Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Rick Bartolucci and Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli.

“The province is preparing a Capital Plan for release in the spring and this type of outside-the-box thinking would be a great addition to that Plan and a natural coming out of the Affordable Housing Strategy announced last year,” added Deschênes Smith.

The concept of turning surplus sites, former offices, closed schools and other sites into vibrant new communities has received support from across the housing sector. “Tridel is supportive of the HOA proposal that sets out a process that identifies surplus publicly owned land and sells it on a priority basis to support the provision of affordable housing,” says Dino Carmel, president of Tridel. “Tridel is committed to improving the social, economic and architectural vitality of this great city and is therefore supportive of the HOA proposal that provides a new mechanism for improving the lives of the city’s broad and diverse residents.” 

“We are unfortunately limited to the number of families we can serve due to the lack of access to suitable land.  We believe the Government of Ontario can support the expansion of affordable housing in the province by providing priority access of provincial surplus lands to affordable housing projects and organizations,” said Stewart Hardacre, president and CEO, Habitat for Humanity Canada.

“Government owned land holdings are valuable assets that can be utilized to leverage private sector investment for affordable housing.  OHBA is generally supportive of the proposal by HOA for an RFP process that would identify surplus publicly owned land and sell it on a priority basis to support the provision of affordable housing,” says Bob Finnigan, president, Ontario Home Builders’ Association  

“In this time of fiscal restraint, government and sector partners must work together to find innovative ways to enable the development of affordable housing responses. In this spirit, we encourage the Province to provide priority access for housing providers to suitable surplus publicly owned land for the development of a mix of affordable housing options,” says Keith Ward, president, Ontario Non Profit Housing Association

HOA’s proposal “Priority Access to Surplus Publicly Owned Land to Support Affordable Housing” can be found at: .

Home Ownership Alternatives is a non-profit financial corporation dedicated to financing affordable ownership housing developments and assisting low- and moderate-income families to purchase a new home through the shared appreciation HOA 2nd Mortgage.  The HOA 2nd Mortgage improves affordability as it requires no scheduled payments of principal or interest. 

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