Low cost housing planned for school

Staff Writer
Natali Trivuncic

A dramatic transformation is planned for St Michael’s School, which could fulfill the town’s need for lower cost and senior housing.

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB) has purchased St. Michael’s school located at 820 Fifth St. East, with an additional offer to purchase the playground. RRDSSAB will have access to the school in April 2021.

St. Michael’s school was formally an elementary school and one of six schools part of The Northwest Catholic District School Board. The school offered programs in English and French immersion.

Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer at RRDSSAB, describes big plans set for the school, starting off with moving the playground closer and putting their EarlyON centre in a third of the school. He adds that they plan to keep the playground open to the public after hours. For the rest of the school, they are looking at renovating it into various one bedroom and two bedroom apartments.

McCormick said this addition would be geared towards a senior population and will provide them with onsite support. McCormick stresses it will not be an assisted living facility but is rather housing with services such as mental health, which RRDSSAB is looking to partner with the Canadian Mental Health Services to provide.

“Basically, the people could just go down the hallway and see a nurse and maybe discuss their medications or maybe they need their flu shot, or something that can be done right on site,” McCormick said.

McCormick adds that they will also be designating space in the building specifically for transitional offices and treatment rooms. They are also trying to work out the logistics of providing meals to residents that will eventually occupy the space.

McCormick notes that St. Michaels is a large property and once the playground is moved over, the property will open enough space to create five 8-plex units. The buildings would be two levels with four units on each level.

On the main floor of the building there will be two, one bedroom accessible units and two bachelor units. On the second floor of the building there are going to be four, one bedroom apartments.

McCormick said the buildings will most likely be built in stages.

“At the end of the project, hopefully we’d have 40 new units,” McCormick said. “Ten of them would be accessible one bedrooms, 10 of them would be bachelor apartments and 20 of them would be just one bedroom apartments.”

This building differs from the one connected to the school because it would be open to any age group, McCormick added.

RRDSSAB is continuing to seek government funding for the coming renovations. The funding would allow 20 per cent of the units to be classified as affordable. McCormick said this means that rent will be between 80 to 90 per cent of market rent.

“People that are sort of in that in between that don’t qualify for rent geared to income, but don’t have enough money to pay for market rent, they need that affordable rental,” McCormick said. “That’s one thing we’re trying to address across the district as we move forward.”

McCormick said it is difficult to tell when this project will be complete as it will depend on funding, but the first step is to begin renovations on the school.