Council hears suggestions for creation of affordable housing

By Chad Ingram

Published Dec. 19 2017

There are a variety of ways Haliburton County could help spur the development of affordable housing county councillors heard last week.

Hope Lee manager of housing for the City of Kawartha Lakes which is Haliburton County’s social services and Christine Pacini a founding consultant with SHS Consulting a Richmond Hills-based firm specializing in affordable housing presented councillors with an affordable housing framework during their Dec. 13 meeting.

As a report from the consulting firm explains “Low and moderate income households are those households with incomes falling at or below the 60th income percentile. The affordable house price for households in the 60th income percentile in the City of Kawartha Lakes is $321314 and the affordable rent is $1014. The affordable house price is lower than the average house price in Kawartha Lakes in 2017 of $390000. According to CMHC [the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation] the average market rent for Kawartha Lakes for October 2016 was $987 which is lower than the affordable rent based on the 60th income percentile. As such affordable housing thresholds for 2017 are a house price of $321314 and monthly rent of $987. The City of Kawartha Lakes and the County of Haliburton are considered one regional market. As such these are the affordable housing thresholds for the county as well.”

“I will preface this by saying it sounds high but this would be the absolute maximum” Pacini told councillors.

Affordable home ownership is considered the least expensive of: accommodation costs that do not exceed 30 per cent of an annual household income for low and moderate households incomes or housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 per cent below the average purchase price of a resale market unit in the regional market area.

Affordable rent is considered the least expensive of: a unit for which rent does not exceed 30 per cent of gross annual income for low and moderate household incomes or a unit for which rent is at or below the average market rent for the regional market.

According to the report 25 per cent of households in Haliburton County are facing affordability issues meaning those households spend more than 30 per cent of their gross annual income on housing. Half of renters in the county spend more than a third of their gross annual income on rent.

“There’s a very limited rental supply in your community” Pacini said adding this was true of all rental units not just those considered affordable.

Rental units are something not being constructed much in the county by the private sector she said.

The framework presents 26 different tools that council might consider to encourage the building of more affordable housing.

Some of these suggestions include the development of policies that require new developments to provide a certain percentage of affordable units; policies that encourage the development of secondary suites [this is something included in the county’s new official plan]; the development of “coach house” dwellings; and alternate building standards for affordable housing projects.

As Pacini explained this could entail changes such as a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for an affordable housing complex.

“Primarily because a lot of tenants of affordable housing they don’t drive” she said.

For developers of affordable housing waivers on permit fees and parkland dedication requirements could act as incentive.

Other suggestions include the donation of surplus municipal land for housing projects or the sale of municipal land below market value for the purpose; developing a master inventory of surplus municipal land that could be used for housing and sharing that information with developers; the creation of a housing reserve fund; and exploring the opportunities of creating community hubs in partnership with community agencies non-profit housing providers and government agencies.

Another suggestion is that agreements be struck with developments’ owners to keep rents affordable.

“Talking to private developers the issue is uncertainty” said Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey. “They don’t know if their hydro is going to go up 20 per cent in three years.”

Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts said she’d asked a local builder why he didn’t construct rental unit buildings.

“He said the economics aren’t there so how do you sell that to the private sector?” Roberts said.

Pacini said that by using some of the tools in the framework municipalities could lower the cost of construction projects for builders.

Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said working with the private sector on affordable housing would be a necessity that may require incentives from upper levels of government.

“The public side of it can never do this and they’re going to have to create a program for the private side” Devolin said.

As Minden Hills council prepares to update the township’s official plan Devolin said that in the future developers in the township will be required to provide a certain ratio of affordable units.