The City of Kenora has given the Kenora District Services Board the go-ahead to eventually develop the former Northlands property in downtown Kenora.

At their June 21 Council meeting, councillors approved the KDSB’s application to reclassify the property at 216 Matheson Street South from Institutional Zoning to a General Commercial Zone, which will allow for the future development of a multi-unit residential building.

The KDSB says while they’re still a few steps away from beginning construction on the building, as designs would need further approvals from the city, they hope to create a building with commercial space on the main floor and affordable housing units above, similar to many other buildings in the area.

The fully-serviced lot has been vacant since the demolition of the building in late 2020. It had previously housed support services, adult education and family violence counselling services.

The KDSB purchased the old Northlands building in 2018, but after an assessment, they found the over 100-year-old building was in complete disrepair and needed to be replaced. The Northlands was originally built in 1890 as Kenora’s Ottawa Hotel.

The KDSB says in 2014, they had about 400 families waiting for affordable housing in the district. By 2022, that number had grown to over 1,300 families.

Overall, the KDSB says the need for housing has increased by about 350 per cent since 2011. Their data shows that demographics most in need include seniors, families and single residents.

Other housing projects the KDSB is tackling this year in Kenora include a 30-unit facility near Evergreen in partnership with Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, 20 affordable housing units on Matheson Streetsecond-stage housing on Fifth Street South, a new to-be-announced seniors facility and an expected redevelopment of the Benidickson Court seniors facility.

Across the region, the KDSB also plans to build supportive housing units and seniors units on Orvis Street in Dryden with more seniors units planned for Arthur Street, and the continued redevelopment of existing housing units across the region.