By Chris Pickup

The shovel should finally go in the ground for Dunnville’s Aspen Apartments on Grandview Lodge grounds, around mid June.  

It’s been a rough road for the 14-unit seniors affordable housing project that first came before Haldimand council committee for a mortgage guarantee on April 24. The Aspen development was proposed by Capability Support Services, a not-for-profit organization which had previously developed a 21-bed assisted living facility (Maple Grove Place) with a similar guarantee from the county.

The Aspen project ran into financing problems despite the county’s guarantee because the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) claws back any surplus operating funds at the end of each year, leaving a tight debt service coverage ratio which banks view with a jaundiced eye.

The whole issue was deferred pending an investigation by county staff.

Capability’s Glenda Lucas was back before council Tuesday with news that Infrastructure Ontario was providing the funding.

The county had put together a package which included a loan guarantee not to exceed $600,000 and a county grant for $250,000, $150,000 of which was to come from the county’s social housing reserve and $100,000 from ward 5 vibrancy funds which councillor Shirton had volunteered.

However when it came time to vote on the motion, Shirton had changed his mind on the vibrancy funds, and said he would vote against.

During Tuesday’s meeting he sought assurance that preference in housing would be given to people in the Dunnville area, but was told eligible seniors were taken from the Haldimand-Norfolk wait list and Capability would have no ability to choose where they came from.

With that in mind, Shirton said he didn’t think it was a proper use for his ward’s vibrancy funds, and councillor Morison agreed with him.

After a really shocked pause from everyone concerned, councillor Grice suggested another deferral. But mayor Ken Hewitt asked Karen General how much was in the social housing reserve, and on being told not quite $2 million, the motion was amended to take the whole of the $250,000 grant from that reserve. It was carried unanimously.