Hamilton charity unveils ‘The Oaks’ affordable housing complex at former Royal Oak Dairy site

A four-year affordable housing complex on East Avenue North in Hamilton was unveiled by Indwell on Thursday featuring the facade of the old Royal Oak Dairy. Global News

A Hamilton-based Christian charity that builds affordable housing complexes in the city has unveiled its four-year project in the lower city featuring the facade of the old Royal Oak Dairy.

In 2018, Indwell purchased the property that would become what is now the ‘The Oaks’ — a new affordable housing community just southeast of Barton Street and Victoria Avenue North.

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“It’s 108 new units of affordable housing, three buildings,” Indwell CEO Jeff Neven told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

“It’s an adaptive reuse of the original stable and carriage house of the Royal Oak Dairy that was there.”

The Dairy Lofts is a 43-unit building on East Avenue North that reflects the original Royal Oak Dairy – a bottling plant started in 1898 and closed in 1981 once housing horse stables, loading docks, oil tanks and boilers.

A just completed affordable housing development in east Hamilton, ‘The Oaks,’ features the facade of the old Royal Oak Dairy. Global News

Heartwood Place adds an additional 52 units with a third, smaller development rounding out accommodations.

Neven says the idea of using the location was driven by the degradation endured over decades at the site becoming a home to squatters, bringing vandalism and a lot of garbage to the surrounding neighbourhood.

“The neighbours were letting us know of the challenges they were experiencing with the property, so just over four years ago, we said let’s buy it and see if we can turn this into affordable housing,” Neven recalled.

‘The Oaks’ is an affordable housing development that boasts 108 units for Hamiltonians needing ‘deep affordability.’ for tenants living in poverty. Global News

Kicked off with a loan from the Hamilton Community Foundation to purchase the buildings, the charity was able to collect $5 million in private donations over the years.

The estimated $50-million project, which included the acquisition of the land, also received aid via funding from the three levels of government.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is Indwell’s largest contributor, providing about 55 per cent of funds grants and financing.

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The Oaks project offers what Indwell refers to as “deep affordability” for tenants living in poverty, many collecting Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), through average rents of $500 a month.

A typical one-bedroom unit built by the charity is about 400 square feet.

Neven says it didn’t take long for the units at The Oaks to be snapped up as Indwell grapples with a large waiting list, around 3,000 individuals seeking something from the thousands of planned units yet to be developed.

“So that’s the tension we live in today. We celebrate these units and tomorrow we get back to work in creating hundreds of thousands more units for people who still need housing,” Neven said.

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