Affordable Housing and Housing Affordability: Is Anyone Listening? Part 3 of 3 – Will Lenssen

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Op-Ed created by Will Lenssen, Sales Representative®, Homelife Power Realty Inc, Brokerage® April 21, 2019

Note: The opinions and positions here are the sole personal expressed opinion and perspective of the author and in no way represent the views of his Brokerage® or his local, provincial, or federal associations or affiliates.

Locally, the City of Guelph has clearly separated social housing from affordable housing. It has also been undergoing an accelerated growth rate. While that is happening, Guelph passed its annual budget the details of which can be found via this link as they relate to housing. In it, the mayor managed to get about $302,000 in funding for initiatives for his homelessness and addictions task force because he personally stated just last month that he had failed as a mayor on the issue in his last term. Some local stakeholders are contributing to this funding which will go towards

* a recovery room of 5 beds for those going through an addiction or mental health crisis.

* a court support worker

* two community support workers in the downtown core.

In addition, Council added $330,000 to the affordable housing reserve and almost $500,000 to implement recommendations from Guelph Transit which helps those, both requiring social aid and those who simply need affordable housing, to “just get there”. In other words, transit sites and where people are at is important too. This is important because homeless persons cannot get to some existing housing that is presently far from the local city amenities they rely on. With the long-term plans not yet addressed, this will require an added future financial commitment. Presently, housing for the homeless usually takes the form of temporary shelters and even then, the system does not work for all because of the variety of needs of those on the street.

This is reiterated by a common visitor of Hope House in an article entitled “Finding a Way Home: A Look at the Local Shelter System” by Chris Seto of the Guelph Mercury Tribune, it is only temporary. The Guelph community and Wellington County’s support of the Drop In Centre and Wyndham house is doing what it can under existing circumstances; thus, the additional monies and the Mayor’s own accountability are a sign for others to continue with this complex issue that includes medical and psychological elements. Housing issues include the homeless and therefore also includes government at all levels. To be effective and current, the province must catch up because it was 20 years ago that the province passed the social housing portfolio to Wellington County without much change since then.

How much can the taxpayers afford to help those in need? And to add to the problems, unique and accessible services needed for individual needs, while the Ford administration in Ontario’s government are cutting funding to a variety of services.

The Tribune article states that schedules, house rules and socializing with others can complicate housing matters, and the Guelph citizens are affected. There are those who say, “not in my neighborhood” and others welcome the homeless. Two Guelph homeowners took in a homeless couple in their back yard over the winter,  and were fined as a result. Now let us add immigrants and new arrivals that wish to make Guelph home. There is not enough available housing inventory for them either. That is why the action plan for all governments should consider all the zoning and building options available, including proximal service providers.

Are you aware how fast Guelph is growing? An article by Guelph Tribune about housing in the city’s east end is just one of many reporting on our growth. McNaughton also reported that the Guelph north-end Curling Club development proposal was larger than originally intended. With all the affordable housing required, is Guelph becoming a high-rise city to meet its citizens’ shelter needs and supply affordable housing as well? What is sacrificed to do this? Land and space will continue to be sacrificed unless the trend goes into a vertical sprawl – high rise apartments and condominiums.

That is why another idea is coming; namely, a proposal reported on April 9/19 to have co-housing come to Guelph. This local proposal involves a 3-storey, 21-unit building to replace 3 homes on Speedvale Ave E, west of Delhi. Another development is in the Ward at the former industrial site of IMICo. It requires remediation and preparation and the City of Guelph is contributing to that. Dan Gibson, Ward 1 Councilor and Environmental Scientist, in his opinion column in the Tribune mentions this, as well as mentioning the concept of Community Land Trusts (CLT). These non-profit corporations lease, develop, and steward affordable housing for the community on public property for low- and moderate-income people.

Other developments reported on:

– In front of City Council is the Beechwood townhouse proposal at the site of the former Optimist Club.

– The 400 townhouse and apartment units on Victoria South described as “jammed in like sardines” by some.

-The Arkell Townhouse proposal, near Summerfield and close to the new UGDSB high school that is to schedule to build, is coming.

– Along Gordon St S, the developments just south of Claire Road are being built and units bought up to 1-2 years in advance of completion.

Being on the south end, the impact on aggregate ground water levels and sources raise concerns and may limit the residential impact and land use. Guelph has an example of limited land use in the Golden Horseshoe; the use of prime agricultural land created a “not so golden” status. Why? The commercial and industrial takeover that has covered much of the Golden Horseshoe from Oshawa to Niagara Falls. Development has made an asphalt and concrete jungle of much of the prime agricultural land of the Niagara Peninsula from south of Hamilton to the Niagara Peninsula. The Okanagan Valley of Ontario is disappearing. Will that be Guelph’s green space and artesian wells destiny?

In February 2019 James Gordon, Ward 2 City Councilor, addressed the integrated services required of housing to meet the multiple needs of the homeless that I have mentioned in my 3-part series. He advocates a “permanent supportive housing” plan, including incentives to have new developments allocate an “inclusion” of affordable units for those in need. Federal funding is also available only if the community shows that it is in the “action stage” of development and building.

At the Federal level, the government’s budget pledged funding to help housing. The Canadian government committed to supplying $1.3 billion (loan $810 million; investment $530 million) to restoring about 58,000 units specific to Toronto to aid an estimated 110,000 residents housed in the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. It sees benefits of restoring the units over the next 10 years, hoping to reduce health care and crime investigations as well as providing the residents hope and employment opportunities.

In another move, it is trying to make home-buying more affordable through supply, demand, and regulation. Will it help? Time will tell. Bill Morneau, Liberal MP, and Federal Minister of Finance, said that the housing-policy recommendations used many sources to develop its plan, including academic, real estate and mortgage experts.

Ontario also just passed its budget, but it originally addressed housing indirectly via transit support, in the GTA. In Toronto, there were concerns . Provincial Finance Minister Vic Fadell and the Ford PC’s in a budget entitled “Protecting What Matters Most” did not address the Toronto’s housing directly. Toronto was worried that affordable rental housing would not be addressed while the province originally emphasized boosting housing supply with its “Open for Business” budget focus. He Ford government announced the Community Housing Renewal Strategy. This welcomed addition intends to streamline repairs by improving the efficiency of the process for social housing repairs, to reduce the waiting lists for social housing, and to give the Toronto Community Housing a say in repeat criminal tenant applications. What Ford’s provincial Progressive Conservatives did parallels what Trudeau’s federal Liberals did – pass budgets to address housing. However, the emphasis, and rightly so, is on the City of Toronto. How will other communities, like Guelph and those in Wellington County, benefit?

Regardless of the proposals and ideas, here are some points to consider:

– We have land to protect for the agricultural, environmental, and natural resource benefits it provides.

– The impact of housing on the environment is important; for example, in Guelph we have had issues with the development of the south aggregate area which has a major impact on our precious artesian wells.

– As our housing and population increase, work sites do as well. Business and industry lands are needed as housing lands are.

-Technology will affect housing and affordability.

– The Real Estate profession will affect housing affordability and affordable housing

– Transit routes and important services must integrate into a housing plans, and that is a major responsibility of the Municipality

– Local, provincial, and federal budgets and supports must use wisdom, now and in the long term for future generations.

– Housing is the major economic factor and benchmark that exists to set up a healthy community and nation.

As an Educator and Realtor®, I would advocate one more plan: That the professionals involved in housing assist to improve age-appropriate financial education related to housing and debt where and when it is proper, including in our school systems.

All Canadian communities are trying to address shelter and residences for its citizens and guests. Housing is the single most important investment a person(s) can make aside from investing time, energy, and finances in one’s own children. Housing is no easy task for the individual buyer/renter, the municipal planning department, or the governments that aid financially with the monies provided by tax payers.

Housing has many multi-faceted components and requires that all contributors be creative and work cooperatively in the solutions to provide this necessity, to provide this human need, to provide this right.

Is Anyone Listening?” Hopefully, we are all listening and contributing what we can. We all want a place to call “home”.

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