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Marathon's new subdivision puts affordability first

The Town of Marathon is making moves to boost housing stock with federal funding.
Mayor Rick Dumas is standing on the edge of phase one of the subdivision at Pen Lake Heights. (Clint Fleury, Newswatch)

MARATHON – Through the housing accelerator fund, phase two of Marathon’s Penn Lake Heights subdivision will get underway later this year.

The federal government recently announced $1.9 million to aid Marathon in building 60 new housing.

In an interview with Mayor Rick Dumas, phase one began in 1985 for the Barrick Hemlo Mine development.

Now, with the Generation Mine development project, Marathon is looking at a robust economic and population boost.

“Phase one was developed through the mid-eighties and there was accommodation for about 160 lots. Phase two is already part of the plan from that original onset and design, which will accommodate about 105 housing lots depending on the variety of housing and size of lots,” said Dumas.

Dumas acknowledged that the town is working behind the scenes to get the subdivision started as fast as possible.

“Developing another subdivision is already on the books, but the reality is you've got to go through the environmental assessments, all the groundwater studies, the infrastructure layout, the plumbing, the sidewalks, the lighting, and the electrical," explained Dumas.

Marathon's action plan outlines that landowners would have enough square footage to build a variety of homes of various sizes ranging from small modular to multiplexes to ensure affordability.

The town has also included design specifications for people looking for a more modern concept home for those looking to build something smaller.

Tiny homes have become quite popular over the years as the home buyer’s market has inflated. A $70,000 home on a 1,000-square-foot plot of land in the 80s is now worth triple at market value.

For Marathon, the Pen Lake Heights subdivision is “all about affordable housing,” Dumas said.

He acknowledged that homes have changed significantly over the last 30 years and with that in mind, the popularization of tiny homes that fit on a 200 to 500-square-foot plot would be pleasing to young adults or seniors looking to scale down.

Dumas said that there will be a standardization of the tiny home due to the size restrictions on the plot of land. However, home buyers will be able to choose between a few different models.

The fund will also be put toward an automated application for developers to streamline the process of building homes promptly.

"Things have really changed from the 80s to 2024. Time frames, in regards to, how you access a lot of the information, how you share that information, you can do a lot of things online now. So, we're looking at all angles and how we can make it easier to do at the best of our ability," Dumas said.

“The key message is the government -- no matter what level of government it is -- the bureaucracy is what we're trying to avoid and make sure things are really on track.”

Although Dumas would like to see all 60 homes built by the end of 2024, he said it might not be realistic.

It may depend at times on a few pieces to the puzzle needing to be in place.

For example, Dumas said the town needs to have an interested developer, and even if they had a developer, the demand for home buyers isn’t easy to gauge.

Additionally, he pointed out that skill trades are suffering from staffing shortages causing a barrier to ensure there is a workforce to build that many homes.   

“We've talked to a lot of developers and a lot of individual contractors and it's a struggle to get employees. So, we can wish all we want. Realistically, the timelines are probably more like 10 to 20 homes in 2024, if all goes well in our favour, in regards to employees' availability materials and such,” Dumas said.

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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