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A missed opportunity for affordable housing

April 2023

I’m frankly confused why jurisdictions like Toronto, and Ontario in general, complain about a lack of affordable housing. In many cities across Ontario, there are numerous empty, or underused, municipal and provincially-owned buildings that could easily be converted into affordable housing.

Municipalities and provincial ministries that have inherited housing from closed from closed military bases haven’t always made use of these existing or easily convertible housing options.

The former Canadian Forces Base Toronto, a Royal Canadian Air Force base that closed in 1996, once had three enclaves of military housing (Private Married Quarters or PMQs), two at the base itself )Stanley Green Park and William Baker Park), with the third located in Oakville (Surrey Park), that was inherited after the closure of CFB Oakville. All three enclaves were instead demolished around a decade ago.

The same fate befell the former PMQs at the closed CFB Rockcliffe in Ottawa.

After Royal Canadian Air Force Station Edgar, north of Barrie, closed in 1964, the entire station was turned over to the Ontario government for use as a residential facility for mentally-challenged adults. The Edgar Occupational Centre made use of the entire station, which was a complete self-sufficient village, complete with residential, recreational and institutional buildings, which included a fire hall, school, cafeteria and chapel. After the Ontario government closed this facility, all the buildings sat unoccupied and deteriorating for over a decade, except for the security hut at the main entrance, when the property was finally sold to a private developer. By this time, none of the buildings were salvageable, including the single-family homes and barracks, ones that could have easily been converted into apartments.

Former military bases in other municipalities have been sold to the private sector, with the already existing housing and barracks turned into rental housing. Sure, many of these former PMQs and barracks were built in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, many out of wood, but some out of brick, often without suitable insulation and many without basements (for the houses), and under construction codes that are insufficient by today’s standards. That said, upgrading them to today’s standards can easily be done, something that could justify higher rent or sale prices for the developer.

Both the federal and provincial governments across Canada are currently sitting on buildings like former hospitals, schools and government offices, some that have been sitting empty or under used for years, that could easily be converted into apartment units.

Of course, sometimes it’s simply not economically viable to renovate buildings, but demolition of perfectly serviceable housing units should be avoided, if possible, if we are going to effectively combat the affordable housing shortage.

This certainly isn’t the only solution to the chronic shortage of affordable housing in Canada, but it’s an option that shouldn’t be ignored.

Places where former military housing and barracks have been turned into private-sector housing:

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/a-missed-opportunity-for-affordable-housing-2/

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