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Former Kinsmen Children's Centre in Cambridge could be converted for paramedic services, affordable housing


A regionally-owned property in Cambridge is at the centre of a plan that could see the site converted for additional paramedic services and affordable housing units.

The former Kinsmen Children's Centre located at 651 Concession Road was considered at a regional committee meeting on Tuesday.

It was built in 2004, and sits on about 1.08 acres of land, valued at $1.4 million. It operated as a child care centre until 2021, and was then used as a temporary COVID-19 isolation centre for people experiencing homelessness.

In December 2021, it was turned into an emergency shelter and it has served that purpose since.

Now, the Region of Waterloo is looking for a more permanent use.

A proposal for the site suggests a five-storey building with paramedic services on the ground floor, and emergency shelter on the second floor and 33 affordable housing units on the remaining floors.

Childcare is also being considered.

The plan is something the majority of councillors are on board with.

"I strongly support this. And obviously, in Cambridge, we're looking for all those needs to be met. And it'd be a very exciting project in an excellent location," said regional councillor Pam Wolf.

The possibility of supportive housing stood out at as a significant benefit.

"I'm hoping that is given particular consideration because we need supportive housing, especially in Cambridge," said regional councillor Rob Deutschmann.


But Cambridge mayor Jan Liggett has some concerns about the type of housing that could go there.

"Even though I support supportive housing – not at this particular site. I have strong, grave concerns about that," said Liggett. "This is right next door to an elementary school, they share the chain link fence."

The school she is referring to is Coronation Public School.

Her comments resulted in some pushback from fellow councillors.

"To respond to councillor Liggett, who I usually do not disagree with, supportive housing means a person can afford to rent a house, but not at the prices of today's," said regional councillor Sue Foxton. "So it's 33 per cent of their income for housing, as supportive housing. These are not homeless people, anything else. Just wanted to clarify and you may have known that."

Despite the recommendation primarily using 'affordable' housing in the terminology of the report, it seems both 'affordable' and 'supportive' housing were mentioned during Tuesday's meeting, which may have complicated the discussion.

Mayor Liggett said there is a difference between the two during an interview with CTV News.

"You need to understand there's a difference between affordable housing and supportive housing," Liggett said. "And I don't think people understand the difference between them. Affordable housing is one thing, I think it's a great opportunity if that can be all affordable housing and [for] families. That can be great."

She added, supportive housing combines affordable housing with support services for people with physical or mental health needs, along with substance abuse.

That's where her concern comes in.

"I would never place supportive housing with folks that have mental health problems or addictions problems next to a school," she said.

Regional councillors, including Liggett, did vote unanimously to explore exactly how the building will be converted.

Staff will return next year with a redevelopment plan and updated project costs, which is estimated to be $35 million, including all associated construction and consultation fees. Top Stories

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