Housing crisis

Windsor summit to discuss ways out of ‘housing crisis’

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Almost anyone looking for a new place to live in Windsor these days doesn’t need to be told there’s a housing affordability crisis.

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And it’s getting worse and worse. The average cost of a local home sold last month reached $704,112, a figure one real estate agent described as “mind-boggling”. That was an increase of almost 45% over the previous year, and it represented an increase of more than $129,000 since the start of 2022.

“We all know there is a crisis, but what are the political solutions we can offer to deal with it? asks Anneke Smit, director of the Windsor Law Center for Cities.

The University of Windsor-based research group is hosting a two-day housing summit next week designed to bring together a mix of expert voices with ideas and suggestions for what can be done, including showing what planning and policy tools currently exist and are already being deployed elsewhere. Systemic challenges and gaps in housing provision will be examined, as well as what governments at different levels and the private sector should do.

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Windsor’s housing market “makes people pay, it contributes to generational poverty — it’s huge,” Smit said. Low housing costs provided local households with a cushion during cyclical economic downturns, and they also helped the city retain young talent by limiting the cost of living.

Jordan Ellis, a JS Ellis Construction framer works on a single family housing construction in the 1300 block of Clearwater Avenue in Windsor on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

” This is no longer the case. These are real challenges – it’s a huge cost to the whole community, she said. The March 16-17 summit, which will be attended by planners, politicians, entrepreneurs, economists and academics, is co-sponsored by the Canadian Urban Institute, the Ottawa Institute for Smart Prosperity and the School of Cities from the University of Toronto.

With provincial and municipal elections on the near horizon, Smit said the 20 or so speakers and panelists will focus on solutions to an issue that is likely to be very much on the minds of voters this year.

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“I think we’re starting to see some solutions emerging, but we still have a serious problem,” said economist Mike Moffatt, senior director of the Smart Prosperity Institute, who will provide an overview of the current situation when the summit opens. . While expressing hope that governments and policymakers will “finally admit we have a problem”, he said ending the crisis “will not happen overnight”.

The growing divide between those who can afford a home and those priced off the market is “a big concern,” Moffatt said. He describes the more than 50 recommendations of a special task force created by the Ontario government last year as “very strong”, but he and others criticize the fact that it did not respond to concerns such as investors contributing to property speculation and price inflation.

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Jordan Ellis, a JS Ellis Construction framer works on a single family housing construction in the 1300 block of Clearwater Avenue in Windsor on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Jordan Ellis, a JS Ellis Construction framer works on a single family housing construction in the 1300 block of Clearwater Avenue in Windsor on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Do the planning and policy tools already exist to help solve the housing crisis?

“The quick answer is yes,” said Jim Tischler, director of development for the State Land Bank of Michigan and another summit panelist. He is a visiting scholar at the Windsor Law Center for Cities and is familiar with the housing situation in Windsor and Ontario.

One of Tischler’s assignments for Michigan has been to show municipalities how to turn degraded, abandoned brownfields into productive land reserves that can be directed toward affordable housing development. Tax increment funding, he said, is another tool — available to Ontario cities since 2006 but not yet used — that would allow those entering the housing market to redirect their taxes to help finance this first purchase.

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  1. A home goes on sale on Bruce Avenue in South Windsor on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

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  3. Maiden Lane in downtown Windsor is pictured Thursday December 9, 2021.

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Last fall, Moffatt’s think tank reported that Ontario needed 1 million new homes over the next decade, and the Ford government’s task force put the need at 1.5 million. of units. He and Smit worry that without proper planning and policy guidance, addressing this deficit could lead to unsustainable urban sprawl, which Moffatt says could end up costing all municipal taxpayers.

Tischler and others at the summit will discuss the need for target market analysis at the municipal level to better identify future housing needs and help guide the development of a broader range of residential options than the current preponderance of suburban, and increasingly expensive, single-family homes. dwellings.

The summit, which includes four 90-minute online Zoom sessions spread over two days, is open to everyone and free. To register, visit the Windsor Law Center for Cities website at windsorlawcities.ca.

dschmidt@windsorstar.com

twitter.com/schmidtcity

Construction workers are pictured at a condominium project on McHugh Street in Windsor Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Construction workers are pictured at a condominium project on McHugh Street in Windsor Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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