Barrie mayor welcomes 150 social housing units proposed for former OPP property on Rose Street

County proposes a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units

Much-needed affordable housing will be built on the former OPP detachment on Rose Street in Barrie.

In an update to Simcoe County councillors this week, staff reported the building will be demolished by year’s end.

Staff said construction of a two-wing building on the 4.7-acre property will consist of a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom units, eight and ten storeys respectively.

“The building also contains ground-floor and second-floor commercial space for a County Social and Community Services office including Ontario Works, Children Services, and potentially other social and community supportive uses,” according to the report. “In addition, the site is in close proximity to public transit and is within walking distance to downtown services, as well as the commercial shopping areas along Bayfield Street.”

Mayor Jeff Lehman welcomes the development.

“The need for social housing is great because that’s for people who can’t come anywhere close to affording market rent. And we know, the waitlist in Simcoe County is very long and many, many years,” said Lehman.

“What is particularly tragic in that case, and it’s obviously difficult for everybody who is on that list and struggling with the cost of living, but there are some seniors that have been on that list for years, in some cases five, six or seven years for a spot to come up.”

The mayor believes the County is trying to make the most effective and efficient use of the property.

While the County of Simcoe manages social services, Barrie is the largest funder of affordable housing projects through the County, to the tune, according to the mayor, of about 25 to 30 per cent of the cost, with the balance coming from all the other county municipalities.

According to County staff, construction is expected to start in spring 2024.

Lehman understands people would like to see more affordable housing projects but it’s not as simple as a snap of the fingers.

“One of the most difficult things about a housing crisis is it’s often decades in the making, and you don’t want to be decades in solving it, but it doesn’t get solved overnight. Obviously, buildings don’t get built overnight. They have to go from somebody having the idea to the concept plan, planning approvals, building permits, and design, and then they actually get built.”

Lehman said what they want to do in Barrie, given the urgency of the situation, is to shorten the timeline.

“You can’t really short construction timelines, but you can certainly shorten all that planning and approval time by making it a top priority and working together with partners like the County.”