New GTTI campus proposed for Willow Beach

By: Mike Anderson

GTTI wants to establish a new campus in Willow Beach that will train up to 200 students a year to build modular bungalows.

The training is geared to recent high-school graduates who are considering a career in the building trades. Tuition is free, with classes starting in January 2021.

According to Bil Trainor, Vice-Chair of Georgina Trades Training Inc. (GTTI), the proposed campus will provide much needed skilled workers for the home building industry, which is experiencing severe labour shortages.

“We’re bringing desperately needed apprentices into the trades. After six months of courses, they can decide whether they will go on to other levels of apprenticeship, possibly to full journeyman apprenticeship, or they are job-ready.”

The proposed campus will be located at 1614 Metro Rd. on three-acres of land leased from the Town of Georgina, which purchased the property, the former Sedore/Reed Farm, in 2011/12 for $3.2 million.

Mr. Trainor said the new site, adjacent to Clearwater Farm, is needed because GTTI’s existing location at 5207 Baseline Rd. in Sutton can’t accommodate modular home construction, and the necessary flatbed trucks to transport the homes.

The proposed campus will feature two large temporary buildings that will allow up to 20 modular bungalows to be built inside, protected from the elements, each year.

According to Mr. Trainor, the campus will not compete directly with commercial home builders.

“We don’t consider ourselves to be in the housing business; we’re in the teaching business,” he said.

“So all we need to do is build as many as is needed to sustain the institute. We’re a non-profit, and we will remain so.”

The modular bungalows, averaging 1100 sq. ft, will be built primarily as affordable housing units for low-income families, and, mainly due to student labour, will be priced under similar market homes, said Mr. Trainor.

“Affordable housing is is a serious issue in North America and every Mayor wants to do affordable housing. They just can’t get the partnership together. And so there’s no reason why we can’t build a quantity every year. The quantity will obviously be able to be priced under the market because we have a very low cost to produce it.”

GTTI hopes to develop partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, York Region, and the Town of Georgina to ensure building lots are available, and homes are allocated to those in need.

“I don’t think the GTTI is in the business of deciding who gets the benefit of a very reasonably priced bungalow, but there are certainly other agencies who are well equipped to do that,” he said.

But the proposed project, with an overall budget of nearly $7 million, requires substantial funding from various levels of government, including $2.6 million from the Town of Georgina.

According to Mr. Trainor, that will be partially offset by the campus injecting nearly $2 million annually into the local economy, including the purchase of $6 million of building supplies, mainly from local suppliers, over the first five years.

The campus will also employ 19 faculty and staff, contributing $1.5 million in wages per year.

The GTTI proposal was presented to Georgina Town Council on June 10 and referred to staff for review. A staff report is due at the next virtual council meeting on June 24.

The proposal, although innovative, faces some real hurdles. Besides the need for substantial government funding, the land will have to be re-zoned, and residents may raise concerns about noise levels.

But, despite those hurdles, Mr. Trainor is optimistic the campus will go forward and could prove to be a model for other municipalities.

“We’ve been gaining some momentum in government circles; people are saying, well, wait a minute here, why couldn’t this be cloned in other parts of the province? And my response would be go for it, as long as the first one’s in Georgina.”

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