RRFDC gets funds for modular housing study

Sam Odrowski

Well-paying jobs are essential when trying to attract and retain residents in northwestern Ontario.

In an effort to create jobs and boost the local economy, the province recently provided funding to the Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC) to explore the viability of a modular house manufacturing facility in the region.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP, Greg Rickford visited council chambers on Thursday to announce an investment of $18,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) to conduct a feasibility study.

“This is exciting news and these resources will go a long way to help facilitate or create the prospect for that opportunity,” Rickford said during the announcement.

“Modular houses are pre-fabricated homes built in segments off site which are then delivered and assembled on site.”

“This is a new way of doing housing construction, especially for a lot of smaller communities, townships, and indigenous communities,” he added.

The study to determine the feasibility of manufacturing modular houses will identify infrastructure within the district, which would accommodate a manufacturing facility.

The study will also allow the RRFDC to conduct market analysis of the modular home industry in northwestern Ontario and beyond.

When completed, the study will provide an overview of development and regulatory matters that could impact the project as well.

“It will provide the kind of direction and next steps that I think will be critical to attracting new business into the district,” Rickford explained.

“There’s a forestry product available here, we cut board foot in Kenora-Rainy River, and as long as we ensure we have a skilled workforce available for us to put this together, this is the kind of manufacturing diversification we should be thinking about and acting on,” he added.

During the announcement, RRFDC chair Gordon Armstrong said they’re always trying to explore new industries and the district already has many of the components needed to create modular homes.

Titan Manufacturing near Devlin builds roof trusses, oriented strand board is manufactured at the Barwick mill, and glulam beams are manufactured in the district as well, according to Armstrong.

“We believe that there is potential to build a manufactured housing facility . . . using these assets and putting many more people to work,” he noted.

Rickford said if a modular house manufacturer was determined to be viable in the district it would help to retain existing businesses and could provide them with the tools to expand.

Rainy River Mayor, Dew Ewald lauded Rickford’s announcement and said the district desperately needs to “diversify” and “think outside of the box” when it comes to attracting new employers to the region.

She said apart from the New Gold Mine and Norbord, employment in the region looks “bleak.”

“We need skills development,” Mayor Ewald stressed. “We have Seven Gens and we have Con College that could supply the education that we need to keep young people in this district with good jobs.”

Rickford told the Times, modular houses are becoming increasingly popular as a method of constructing small to medium size homes.

“We’ve seen communities in Kenora and the surrounding area develop neighbourhoods with the modular homes and they look fantastic,” he noted.

“The modular concept now has become very popular, we’re not talking about trailer parks here, we’re talking about really nice looking homes that are very affordable and well built”

Meanwhile, Alberton Reeve, Mike Ford who also attended the funding announcement said teamwork amongst municipalities is key for creating good jobs in the region.

“I think municipalities banding together will lead to the future success of this area,” he stressed.