Seniors’ group urges developer to continue affordable housing push

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article has been corrected from the version which originally appeared on-line and which was published in the January 25 edition of The Reporter. The corrected areas are in the bold type.

ARICHAT: A developer aiming to build 30 low-income housing units for seniors in Isle Madame has extended his negotiation period with the Municipality of Richmond County but is also speaking to municipal officials in Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish about launching his new venture in those areas.

Thai Luong, who already operates eight seniors’ housing units in Arichat, set an October 15 deadline for reaching a deal with the municipality after it delayed his request to have a property on Highway 206 rezoned to accommodate the new development. Since that time, Luong has spoken on two occasions to Richmond County’s new warden, Brian Marchand, and he is now delaying his final decision until mid-to-late February, partly due to a request from the new affordable housing committee established by the Seniors Take Action Coalition (STAC).

“They’ve asked me for more time to see if they can organize and convince the municipality to give me some incentives to make my project viable,” Luong explained, adding that his aim is to build on the success he has experienced with his current housing development in Arichat.
“[Richmond County officials] keep asking me, ‘How much more money do you need?’ And I say, “Listen, I’ll take less money than the majority of the other counties are offering me, because my heart is here.’”

However, Luong also noted that he has recently spoken to Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton about the potential for launching his venture within the town boundaries, should he fail to reach an agreement with Richmond County.

“Chances are, if it doesn’t work here, it’s going to be in Port Hawkesbury,” Luong predicted.
“The mayor was very receptive, offered me help from every which way from land to everything, because she knows that, once in a blue moon, you have [someone] willing to do this.”

STAC affordable housing committee chair Claire Doyle, who assumed her position earlier this week upon the committee’s official formation, has also spoken to Luong and offered her group’s continued support towards a new seniors’ housing development in Isle Madame.

“Our community needed affordable housing, so I, personally, went out to meet him and expressed my feelings that I was in support of what he was doing and that I wanted for him to have patience and kind of continue and move forward with the proposal,” Doyle told The Reporter.
“We’re very supportive of any individual or group that wants to build affordable housing, because we have a need for it in the Strait-Richmond area.”

Luong’s push to have his Highway206 property rezoned with the intent of developing 12 housing units this year and another 18 next year ran afoul of nearby residents, with 45 people signing a petition in opposition of the development and two people public opposing the proposal at a public hearing held last September in Arichat, as well as several written complaints sent to the municipal offices prior to the hearing.

As a result, the municipality launched consultations with the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC) in the hopes of finding another property to better address residents’ concerns while allowing Luong to proceed with his plans.