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Plan to replace office with affordable housing concerns some Newmarket neighbours
Aug. 9, 2021

Lindsay Barker is one of several Bayview Avenue residents wondering about the future of her Newmarket neighbourhood as York Region readies to demolish its former office across from her home.

Fencing went up around the 1950s building Aug. 3 at 62 Bayview Ave. as the regional government moves forward with a plan to build between 115 and 250 affordable housing units there, with regional council backing the direction in June.

Some residents, including Barker, said they were not given enough notice about the region's plan.

“We really need to know what’s going to happen. It’s going to change the nature of our neighbourhood,” Barker said. “It’s only fair that we be consulted and informed.”

The property was the site of regional headquarters until 1994 when the new Yonge Street building opened, and then was used as additional office space for the region's community and health services department until 2020.

York has launched to provide information and updates on the project. Demolition is planned for fall, but the development will take longer, with construction planned for a 2023 start at the earliest. The region said it is working on a planning process, with a community consultation in the fall. It is also mailing postcards to area residents.

“We recognize the demolition may be disruptive for residents and neighbours,” the municipality said. “York Region will work to minimize disruption, provide residents and neighbours with advance notice prior to the start of demolition and regular updates as the planning process begins.”

Housing York Inc., chaired by Newmarket Mayor John Taylor, will head the project. Taylor has expressed support for the much needed affordable housing.

“Community consultation is integral to any new development for Housing York Inc,” the region said.

Neighbour Karen Kalpin said she is concerned about the impact on property values. She said any other public use besides housing would be preferable.

“It’s not going to be quiet anymore,” Kalpin said. “(Property values have) gone down already, of course, because everyone knows housing is coming. People are selling all up and down the street.”

Resident Edna Acut said she plans to move before the new housing comes in, if it goes ahead.

“We were shocked because it was never sent to us as a notice that this is going to be turned into housing,” Acut said.

The lands in question include a natural area. Mabel Davis donated the lands to York Region in 1953, conditional that they remain in public use. Taylor has indicated public housing should qualify, but residents have questioned whether the development would conform to Davis’s wishes.

Barker also questioned the impact the project could have on the surrounding natural area.

“How are you going to put public housing into that space without cutting down a whole bunch of trees?” Barker said. “There’s coyotes, foxes, rabbits, all kinds of critters come through the parking lot.”

York Region said it recognizes the importance of access to green space and forest trails. It said residents can still access the natural area behind the building from the nearby George Richardson Park.

“To protect the natural area, all demolition and construction activity will take place within the fenced area,” the region said. “Regular inspections will ensure the fencing is maintained to continue to protect the natural area.”

The effort to build more affordable housing comes at a time when it is in demand. The region is targeting 1,000 purpose-built rental units per year across York, which would be 50 per year in Newmarket.

“Housing is the foundation of strong, caring, safe communities and a key social determinant of health. Safe, secure and affordable housing is essential for everyone,” the region said.

Barker said the region should improve on informing people about its plans.

“We have been watching this happen with no information,” Barker said. “It’s very disconcerting. Depending on what they do, the neighbourhood is going to completely change.”