Housing crisis

Housing crisis: “While tackling our supply shortage, there is no shortage of resistance”

A drawing of a proposed condo tower for Belmont Village in Kitchener.
  • Columnist Mike Farwell.

The old real estate adage reminded us that it was all about “location, location, location”.

Lately it’s starting to sound a lot more like “supply, supply, supply”.

Ontario’s just-released report from its Housing Affordability Task Force points bluntly to the supply needed, calling for 1.5 million homes to be built over the next decade “to address the lack of supply”.

Among the recommendations made by the report to increase supply is changing planning and zoning policies to allow for greater density while increasing the variety of housing, allowing residential housing up to four units on a single residential lot and allowing unlimited height and density in close proximity to major transit stations.

There’s a lot more to the 30-plus-page report, and a little that’s been omitted, including any analysis of affordable housing, rent control, or levers to manage speculation in the real estate market. The document will spark debate for months to come over whether there is even a need for 1.5 million new homes to address our affordability crisis.

Much of the debate will no doubt revolve around what we build and for whom and, perhaps most critically, how it all changes the character of our neighborhoods and how we define them.

While the report sparks this discussion provincially, we see it taking place on a smaller scale in our own backyards.

A Kitchener council meeting this week had to be split into two parts so that anyone wishing to appear as a delegation had a chance to be heard. The question that so galvanized the public was not a casino (anyone remember this debate?), a safe injection site, or statues of any kind. Instead, the more than 40 people registered to speak wanted to have their say on a proposed new condominium tower for Belmont Village.

The tower, originally proposed as a 13-storey building and now reduced to 11 storeys, would occupy the site of Dettmer Tire’s former location near the corner of Belmont and Glasgow. It would also showcase street-level business opportunities, and the developer is donating $250,000 to Menno Homes to support an affordable housing project in another part of town.

Residents living in the neighborhood have voiced their opposition, citing the long shadows cast by such a tall building and the fact that the height does not match the character of the Belmont Village neighborhood.

A delegation at this week’s meeting highlighted accepting the developers’ proposals in a piecemeal approach that will ultimately reshape the village, as opposed to creating a vision for the area and finding suitable developments. Another noted the lack of three-bedroom units, making condos unsuitable for families.

On the other side of the ledger you have a large tower not far from major public transport links and directly adjacent to a well-used footpath. You also have over 100 new places to live.

While tackling our shortage of supply, there is no shortage of resistance.

Welcome to the growing pains of the 21st century.

Columnist Mike Farwell is a broadcaster, MC and lawyer. Follow him on Twitter at @farwell_WRor contact him via Mike.Farwell@rci.rogers.com.