Reaction continues pouring in following news the City of Kingston has purchased the Extendicare long-term care home with plans to use the space as a new hub for vulnerable residents.
While the city won’t formally take possession of the building until Extendicare moves into a new building this summer, the possibility of supportive and transitional housing moving into the neighbourhood has some nearby residents upset.
“Everybody is 100 per cent opposed,” said Coun. Jeff McLaren, who represents the Meadowbrook-Strathcona district of the more than 200 communications he’s received from constituents about the Extendicare lands plans.
City councillors voted to approve paying $3.8 million for the long-term care provider’s building and property at Bath and Queen Mary roads at their last meeting of 2023. The deal ended nearly two-years of closed-door talks with Extendicare.
Once the building changes hands, Kingston CAO Lanie Hurdle has told Global News the city would like to use the ready-made space as supportive and transitional housing for up to 100 people.
McLaren said his constituents are vehemently against the idea and are already preparing for a legal challenge if the proposal goes forward.
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“If you move the Integrated Care Hub here, all of those problems are going to be moved into a stable, safe, secure area, neighbourhood, and people are not happy about that,” he said.
But not everyone feels that way. Some residents of the nearby Grenville Park Co-operative housing association are receptive to the idea.
“Personally, I’m very much in favour of a well-developed transitional housing facility making use of a space like Extendicare that eases some of the burden,” said Ian Malcolm, a resident of the Grenville Park neighbourhood.
“There’s a sensational part of that that is probably largely unfounded, but it’s still a genuine response right out of the gate, and can be worked through,” added Andrew McLachlan, who also lives nearby.
For Chrystal Wilson, who works with Our Livable Solutions, the group which oversees the sleeping cabin program, said it’s a good idea, though she would like to see a more spread out approach if possible.
“We would like to see small installations throughout the city where it’s 20, 25 people in a location that have wraparound supports,” she said.
The city has said the Extendicare space could be used to house residents of the sleeping cabins, a project that council decided to phase out this spring.
The decision to buy the land wasn’t made public until after the land transfer had been completed, making it seem to some of Councillor McLaren’s constituents that it was kept secret on purpose.
He has explained to them that wasn’t the case.
“The land deal had to be done in-camera, that’s the law,” said McLaren. “We’re required to do it that way, now the public process is going to start.”
That public process will involve both public meetings and online outreach to give citizens a chance to say their piece, the councillor said.
McLaren stressed the only thing about the planned housing project that’s done is the land transfer and the rest of the planning will follow the same public process that other projects do.
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