News Local

Calvin on the Hill affordable housing project is unveiled

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer 
Calvin United Church is proposing an affordable seniors housing project called “Calvin on the Hill.” In the photo are members of the Calvin Infrastructure Task Force (left to right) Alexandra Belanski, Reverend Tiina Cote, Reverend Bill Metcalf, Heather Pearson, Glenn Pearson, Gail Steeves, John Potter, Doug Steeves, Brenda Smith, Judy HarmsPotter, Stacey Mortson and Carla Leon. Missing is Robert McLaughlin, Susan Doucette, Don Peever and Sharon Godin.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Calvin United Church is proposing an affordable seniors housing project called “Calvin on the Hill.” In the photo are members of the Calvin Infrastructure Task Force (left to right) Alexandra Belanski, Reverend Tiina Cote, Reverend Bill Metcalf, Heather Pearson, Glenn Pearson, Gail Steeves, John Potter, Doug Steeves, Brenda Smith, Judy HarmsPotter, Stacey Mortson and Carla Leon. Missing is Robert McLaughlin, Susan Doucette, Don Peever and Sharon Godin.

Calvin United Church has long been a religious beacon overlooking the city from its perch on Moffat Street since 1849.

Now the congregation wants to fulfill a major need in the community beyond offering spiritual guidance. Through the Calvin Infrastructure Task Force, the church is developing a major seniors affordable housing project that will see them convert their hall into an apartment complex.

The decision to give up the hall came after two years of discussions within the congregation in which the parish explored how it could take tangible action to help the community at large. The hall is currently used by the congregation as well as many community groups, such as Streetlight Theatre Company and the Demers Ottawa Valley Taekwon-Do school.

“In this time of the world, we need holistic solutions.” said Reverend Tiina Cote. “Calvin United Church is a community of faith within Pembroke and Pembroke is also a part of Calvin United Church. Where one flourishes, the other will flourish as well.”

The church recently hosted a community engagement luncheon where they invited other not-for-profit housing organizations, municipal and business leaders and service clubs to examine their initial plans and provide feedback. Ultimately they hope to engage partnerships to make this major undertaking, to be called “Calvin on the Hill,” a reality.

“Calvin's infrastructure task force is developing an important project with community wide effect,” said task force chairwoman Stacey Mortson. “We are in the process of putting this puzzle together.”

Thus far, Calvin has created a not-for-profit charitable corporation and began working with a developer and architect to draft plans for the complex that could result in 14 to 21 units on either two or three floors. They are preparing to submit an application for re-zoning to the city. In addition, the task force has consulted with other housing authorities, such as St. Joseph's and Carefor, and examined how national projects across the country were implemented, such as the Cochrane Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

“We have the privilege and responsibility to contribute to the well-being of this city and all of diverse citizens,” added Cote. “I think this is truly God's inclusive love in action for the sake of others.”

According to Calvin's research, Pembroke has a definitive need for affordable seniors housing. The area's average age is 45 years with 25 per cent of the population 65 years or older. Seventeen per cent of that population are considered low income. The city's economic development officer, Heather Salovaara, explained that changing demographic, social and economic trends point to the need for a more diverse and flexible housing supply.

“There is a demand for more safe affordable rental housing, in particular for seniors,” said Salovaara referring to a housing needs and demands analysis conducted by the County of Renfrew in 2008.

Mortson added the benefits to situating a seniors affordable housing complex near the downtown are numerous. Seniors will not only be within walking distance of the downtown's 150 businesses but the public library and Victoria Hall seniors centre.

SChase@postmedia.com