Housing Reimagined: Creative Solutions through Collaboration

Written by Aisha Salahdiin Ahmed

January 9, 2023

The theme of this year’s ONPHA conference was “Our Shared Horizon”, and in alignment with this slogan many of the sessions and workshops focused on what can be achieved through collaborative partnerships.

One of the panel lead sessions introduced a project in London, Ontario which is being built on what used to be a vacant hospital land. The project, located in the SOHO neighborhood, was dubbed the “largest affordable housing development in London’s history,” by London Community Foundation chair Erin Naylor. Six non-profit groups namely: Chelsea Green Home Society, Homes Unlimited, Indwell, Residenza Affordable Housing, London Affordable Housing Foundation and Zerin Development Corporation formed a partnership called the “Vision Soho Alliance”. These partners set out to maintain the legacy of the land and make the most of its location in the core of the city and the community

Each of these groups is leveraging their individual equity and expertise to develop seven buildings as part of this sizable project. Some examples of innovative measures devised by the development team are:

  • engaging rezoning and site plan approvals for all the buildings collectively,
  • opting to provide shared tenant services, and
  • adopting a “Vacant Land Condominium” plan to meet development requirements while also satisfying the partners wishes to each take ownership of a portion of the project.

Notably, three of the seven buildings will be a heritage redevelopment of the old Victoria Hospital. The project promises to house 400+ affordable or below market rent units (600+ units in total).

Source: https://www.lcf.on.ca/vision-soho-alliance

By far the biggest advantage that facilitated the realization of this remarkable project is the collaborative efforts of the project’s development team. At the current phase of development, the project team consists of Zelinka Priamo Ltd (Planning), Cohen Highley LLP (Legal), Devonshire Financial (Financial), and Flourish/Indwell (Development). With their combined resources, this team was able to win the land bid, expedite planning approvals, create a unique ownership model, reduce costs, and restore vibrance to a once prominent neighborhood facility. The Alliance partners are intentional about planning for future projects that will follow after this one has been completed. Beyond being an interesting case study, this project presents a replicable example of innovative solutions to the long-term housing crisis.

The project is currently in its early construction stages, with the groundbreaking ceremony taking place in late October 2022. To find out more about the project, visit the Alliance’s website here: https://www.lcf.on.ca/vision-soho-alliance

Aisha Salahdiin Ahmed

January 9, 2023