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Simcoe County unveils $79 million affordable housing project

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Simcoe County showcased its $79 million Orillia Campus Project, which will provide 130 mixed affordable residential units to seniors, families and individuals.

"It's going to be an integrated community hub that delivers social and community services to a wide array of clients. Some will obviously be those who live in this community but also others that are living in the surrounding area," explained Simcoe County's general manager of Social and Community Services, Mina Fayez-Bahgat.

With three similar housing complexes already created across the County in Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, and Tay in the last five years, officials say applications have been overwhelming, with waitlists only getting bigger.

"When we first announced this build, and it was a go, we already had 900 people on a waiting list. That's how badly it's needed. We can't build them fast enough," said Simcoe County Warden Basil Clarke.

He believes sometimes people just need a helping hand to get them back on track, especially during the current affordability crisis.

"People get their feet knocked out from under them, and they stumble in life. They're qualified; they're workers; they just need a safe place to land, somewhere they know their family is safe. They're back in the workforce; they're back on their feet," added Clarke.

Inside a unit at the Orillia Campus on Wed., Nov. 22, 2023. (CTV News/Ian Duffy)

Households must have an annual income of less than $79,000 to be eligible, with three levels of pricing ranging from 80 per cent to 120 per cent of average market rent - meaning a two-bedroom apartment at the Orillia Campus would cost between $1,000 and $1,500 monthly with a bachelor unit as low as $700.

"Oftentimes, a person needs more than just affordable housing. They need help with income, help with jobs, help with career development, help with life stabilization, health services," said Fayez-Bahgat.

This is why the County Orillia Campus features several in-house community and social services, including child care.

"It was critical to have on-site accessibility to those services. Rather than having people navigate five or six different offices to get five or six different things that they need, they can come to one area and access all those services at once," said Fayez-Bahgat.

The Orillia Campus is set to begin occupancy this coming spring, while a smaller similar County facility is expected to open in Bradford later in 2024 on top of another even bigger housing hub slated for Barrie in 2026 or 2027.

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