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Former Windsor naval base could soon be home to affordable housing

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The former HMCS Hunter property at 960 Ouellette Ave. in downtown Windsor could soon be transformed into affordable housing following Tuesday’s federal budget.

According to the budget, the Liberals are laying out a “bold strategy to unlock 3.9 million new homes by 2031,” using a multitude of measures, including the Public Lands for Homes strategy.

“Our government wants to fast-track, prioritize, and accelerate the conversion of empty National Defense buildings like the HMCS Hunter downtown into affordable housing and into housing,” said Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk.

He continued, “We want to convert it into affordable housing as quickly as possible. Get it into the hands of not for profits, like Habitat for Humanity, or get it into the hands of developers to turn that vacant property that's doing nothing but sitting empty into affordable housing and into housing for our community.”

Kusmierczyk said officials hope to make a decision soon on selling or long-term leasing the vacant property, “We're going to be looking at the property and saying, ‘Does it make sense to sell it,’ because sometimes that takes a little bit of time. Or do we want to lease it, which is quicker, get it into the hands of developers and not for profits to get shovels in the ground, get that empty space converted into housing as quickly as possible.”

“Imagine working families in there. Imagine international students and students who are living there. Imagine nurses and doctors working at the hospital here on locum living there. That's what we want to see happen,” Kusmierczyk explained.

“So we're looking at that property. We're going to accelerate the process. We want to get it into the hands of developers as quickly as possible to turn it into affordable housing as quickly as possible,” he continued. “We're also looking at Canada Post, we're also looking at vacant government buildings that are underutilized.”

“We're going to be working together with municipalities, with towns and cities with mayors. We're going to be working with the private sector. We're going to be working with a not for profit, but 3.9 million homes is the target and we need to do that we need to get supply to bring the cost of homes down,” Kusmierczyk added.

“Certainly it's a great announcement that there's going to be some discussions about long term leases, but my real big concern is shovels in the ground,” said downtown city Coun. Renaldo Agostino. “When you look at the costs of getting these buildings done, and then you look at what the return is going to be, and then when you look at what the investment needs to be, and then what the interest rates are. This is the biggest problem that needs to be tackled right now, we need to sit down with developers and I've been speaking to some of them, trying to figure out what more can we do as a city to get your jobs done.”

“We’ve got to get more units out there,” Agostino explained. “We've got to kind of add more supply to lessen the demand and whether it's houses at Roseland or houses on the west side or more apartments at Glengarry, anywhere, right? Adding to the stock is going to help. It's not going to solve the problem, but it sure is going to help.”

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