On Oct. 31, the City of Brantford’s $7.3 million purchase of Lucy Marco Place from Wilfrid Laurier University was finalized.
Earlier this year, the city approached Laurier to discuss its use of the Lucy Marco Place residence on 36-40 Queen St., one half of a building they co-owned together.
Based on Laurier’s five-year analysis, the building was no longer required for residence purposes.
“With the exception of one year, we had about 110 extra beds in our inventory than what we really need to meet the demand for residence on the Brantford campus,” said Dan Dawson, Laurier’s Assistant Vice-President of Student and Ancillary Services.
Dawson said Laurier’s decision to sell was strategic, as they were wanting to generate more capital to be able to invest in other projects, such as the developments in One Market.
Because of the City’s co-ownership of the building, they had the right to decide to buy Laurier’s half before it could be put on the real estate market.
The City of Brantford’s side of the building, Heritage House, is used as affordable housing and they plan to use Lucy Marco Place in the same way.
“We, like other cities across the province, are experiencing an acute housing crisis,” said Maria Visocchi, the City of Brantford’s director of communication, community engagement and customer service. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to house people who are on our housing wait-list sooner than later.”
Visocchi said city council directed staff to purchase the building with money from their affordable housing reserve in July.
The purchase will add an additional 28 affordable housing units at minimum, but city staff are considering options to renovate the building and expand the number of units. Visocchi said plans for the renovation will likely be shared in January or February 2023.
Laurier is now trying to plan for the years ahead by finding a residence building that’s more “synergistic” with the rest of the Brantford campus, said Dawson.
“One of the things with Lucy Marco Place, it was a little further away from the campus core,” he said.
Students have not lived in Lucy Marco Place since March 2020, when they were sent home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the building was used as an emergency isolation shelter for unhoused people.
The city’s half of the building was built in 1912 and was Brantford’s original YMCA before they renovated for affordable housing. Laurier’s half was newly built after the purchase with the intention of being student residences.
“If the sale results in access for people who are on waitlists in the community around us, I think that’s a win-win for everyone,” said Beth Gurney, Laurier’s director of strategic communications and community engagement.