‘There is no housing for people who do fairly standard jobs here,’ says Mayor Alar Soever
Town of Blue Mountains (TBM) council and staff have been pressed to provide feedback on the report of the provincial Affordable Housing Task Force, which aims to build 1.5 million homes in Ontario over the next next decade.
Released Feb. 8, TBM had until Feb. 15 to provide comments on the task force’s recommendations to the province. The matter was discussed at their board meeting on February 14.
“I think there’s certainly some good information in this document, but just to provide such a short window of time for comment and good consultation is, quite frankly, very upsetting,” said general manager Shawn. Everitt. “This, in my opinion, requires like a good month of consultation period to begin with, [or else] we will not solve the problem.
According to the reporthousing costs have almost tripled in the province between 2011 and 2021, while average income has only increased by 38% over the same period.
While TBM staff appreciated the opportunity to provide comments on the task force report, they expressed concern about the short time frame for submitting comments.
“This is a bit of a watershed moment for the Province of Ontario and also for the City of The Blue Mountains from a planning and development perspective,” said Director of Planning and Development Services, Nathan Westendorp. “The deadline is very short, so we are seeing what we can do in terms of setting up [forward] feedback that we hope will be helpful in improving Ontario’s planning system.
Council and staff were also concerned about recommendations to reduce municipal oversight of development applications and approvals.
“The question marks we have are the ones that erase or drastically reduce the amount of municipal control over applications, things like allowing a development to be approved,” Westendorp said. “If the municipality is taking too long to approve an application because it is going through a review process…there is a suggestion that perhaps these should be automatically approved or expedited in the process, and we So we have some concerns about that.”
“I believe municipal oversight just to make sure the checks and balances are in the development process, that has value,” Westendorp said.
In light of the declining supply of affordable housing across the province, the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force has produced 55 recommendations aimed at reducing the cost of housing.
Recommendations emerged around the following themes:
- Increase the density and variety of housing in the province
- Financially support municipalities that build additional housing
- Remove red tape that could delay or prevent the construction of new housing
- Depoliticizing the housing approval process, such as NIMBYism (“not in my backyard”) pushing back new developments
In order to reach its goal of 1.5 million new homes, some of the report’s suggestions include reducing public consultation in the approvals process, repealing policies that preserve neighborhood character, and streamlining the process. of approval by legislating deadlines for municipalities.
Mayor Alar Soever said building 1.5 million homes does not guarantee their affordability.
“It’s one thing to build 1.5 million houses, but there’s no guarantee that any proportion of those will actually be feasible,” Soever said. “We in the Blue Mountains don’t have a problem with building new houses. As we discovered when the census data was released, we are the second fastest growing community in Canada. »
“We have a serious problem, however, and that is that these are all multi-million dollar or over million dollar homes, and there is no housing for people who are doing fairly standard jobs. here.”
Due to a lack of affordable housing, the community is having difficulty recruiting and retaining key staff.
“As area prices get out of reach of the average person, the ability to have a viable community plummets,” Soever said, citing TBM’s struggles to recruit police officers, firefighters, teachers and even ministers, because of the cost of accommodation.
A dwindling supply of volunteer firefighters, for example, led the city to hire four additional professional firefighters as part of the 2022 budget.
“It was a half-million dollar blow to our professional firefighter budget. [this year], and I’m willing to bet next year we’ll see a similar number. It’s not going to stop – we have to fix it,” Coun said. Rob Sampson.
“We need to watch this carefully, especially in the area of audience engagement,” Coun said. Paula Hope.
Council offered to receive the task force report and forward it to the planning department for comment at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, with a copy of the comments to be provided to council for information at a future meeting.