Westlinks owner donates to municipal Housing Fund

The Town of Saugeen Shores is one step closer to helping support attainable housing thanks to a donation to its newly established Housing Fund.

Rice Development Corporation’s Principal Rod Rice presented $50,000 to Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau on April 20th.

            (L) Rod Rice, Mayor Luke Charbonneau and Jay Pausner (Supervisor Economic Development)

Rice Development Corp., purchased the property formerly known as Piper’s Glen in 2012. “Rice Development has invested in Saugeen Shores for over a decade,” said Rice.  “We understand that diverse forms of housing better serve the community as a whole and let everyone contribute to the town’s success.”

When the Rice family assumed the golf course immediately outside of Port Elgin in 2012, Rod Rice said that, “Our family is involved in property management and development and we have a summer place at Red Bay.  When we first looked at the property it was in the middle of winter and everything was under snow but, what we saw, was a great piece of land.”The family company, that operated under the name Redhawk Inc., began developing ‘lifestyle’ communities aimed at more mid-income families.  “Golf has never been a core with us but we bought and developed Wilmot Creek in Bowmanville and put in a par-3, nine-hole golf course where the residents structured the timetable.  We see Piper’s Glen (now Westlinks) developing along the same lines with residential units surrounding the golf course.”Rice added at that time (2012) that, “We see this as a long-term project with the golf course continuing for many years.  We want it to become viable and profitable and a course where existing members will continue to be members.”

Today, Westlinks has become a subdivision with townhouses and single-family dwellings that line the 12-hole golf course.

At the donation cheque presentation, Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that, “We are leveraging our growth to make Saugeen Shores a town where everyone can find a place to live.  Generous donations from our housing partners – like Rice Development – will help us to provide housing for all in our community.””

The Mayor went on to explain that part of municipal development charges from developers will be directed to the Housing Fund.  “The fund will be used for affordable housing and it may take on several different forms but Council still needs to put a policy behind it.  We may look at contributing municipal property to groups such as Habitat for Humanity and working with the County of Bruce for developments and we’ll need a pool of funding to make projects like this possible.  A good way to look at this donation is as ‘seed money’ that will help to support our affordable housing efforts … housing density is attainable housing.”

He went on to say that government support is needed for housing for those who may be in the lower income strata.  As part of the Bruce County Housing Corporation, he added that affordable housing is desperately needed and the municipality can play a role.  “We have enough land for development for the next 20 years but we can’t have all that land developed with single family homes and that’s a change of attitude that’s happened over the past four years.  We need to take those lands and build more attainable housing which means more density.”

The Mayor said that contributions of private developers is “critical”.  “The participation and cooperation of our developers is a great benefit that the town of Saugeen Shores has in the fight forward for attainable housing. Having developers as partners is how we get things built.  We have several developers who are now coming to the table actively.”

As a member of the Bruce County Housing Corporation, he said that the “County cannot solve the entire problem. We need all the partners to build affordable, attainable housing.  My view at the County is that the government should have a role in subsidizing rents by attaching funds to individuals that they can carry with them into housing throughout Bruce County.  The money is connected to them and then developers can build units, put them on the market at market value and the government can come in behind and subsidize the rents.  We also need rentals built with CMHC financing so that rents are lower.”

According to Rice, the company plans to continue housing construction in the community for several more years. “We have had zoning for apartments for awhile and some day we will be building apartments.  We hope to have something approved by year-end and the town has worked well to help make this happen.”