The Ontario government has come through with a big assist for the re-development of the former Norfolk Inn in downtown Simcoe.
In late February, Norfolk County learned that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has approved $3.2 million toward the redevelopment of the former entertainment complex.
“Our government recognizes how critical supportive housing investments are to address homelessness and maintain housing stability for some of our most vulnerable people,” Minister Steven Clark said in a note to Mayor Kristal Chopp.
The Norfolk Inn is located at the corner of Norfolk Street South and Sydenham Street. Social housing provider Indwell, of Hamilton, purchased the property in 2018 with an eye to converting it into a 32-unit social housing building.
“The tenant population will be people who are living in poverty and who need support due to a physical, developmental or mental disability to live independently in the community,” Heidy Van Dyk, Haldimand and Norfolk’s director of social services and housing, said this week in a report to Norfolk council.
“The construction of this re-development is underway with the issuance of a demolition permit, interior remediation work being completed, and the application ready for the issuance of a building permit.”
This is the second social housing development Indwell has undertaken in Simcoe. Several years ago, it purchased the former Hambleton Hall on John Street and converted it into a 40-unit supervised housing complex.
Norfolk County partnered with Indwell on the Norfolk Inn project last year. The municipality has committed $250,000 a year over the next 20 years. Norfolk County has also taken an ownership interest equal in value to its contribution.
In a letter March 10, Mayor Chopp thanked Clark for the province’s timely grant. The mayor said Norfolk’s commitment comes at a time when the municipality is encountering significant financial headwinds.
“Your government’s most generous contribution will not only provide relief to the Norfolk County taxpayer in years ahead, it has also given us some additional flexibility that we would not have otherwise to seek out other creative solutions to increase the availability of affordable housing in Norfolk, so desperately needed in order to keep our local economy growing,” the mayor said.
With two licensed establishments at ground level and a third in the basement, the Norfolk Inn was a hub for dancing and live music through the latter part of the 20th century. These businesses faded and the building became a source of inexpensive housing for transient populations, some of whom relocated to Simcoe from elsewhere for methadone therapy.
The property became noticeably run down in recent years, prompting merchants and local politicians to identify the Norfolk Inn as key to revitalizing downtown Simcoe. Indwell found alternative lodgings for tenants last year in preparation for the $8.5-million renovation, which is now underway.
Funding from Queen’s Park was authorized under the province’s Home for Good initiative.
“Home for Good is a homelessness-focused program that provides housing assistance to people who are chronically homeless, youth experiencing homelessness, indigenous people experiencing homelessness, and people who experience homelessness following transitions from provincially-funded institutions and services systems (e.g. hospitals and prisons),” Clark said in his letter.