The task force engaged more than 400 people in a public inquiry into the matter and the responses were concerning, the president said
SOUTH GEORGIAN BAY REGIONAL HOUSING TASK FORCE
A group of interested citizens spent nearly a year researching the issue of affordable housing in southern Georgian Bay and are now sharing what they learned.
The South Georgian Bay Regional Housing Task Force, which included politicians, agency representatives and housing advocates, first collected data and then interviewed officials from planning, development , construction and county to learn more about opportunities, innovation and potential solutions. One of the things they learned is that the problem is very complex and not easy to solve.
“We have to start by understanding the problem,” said chairwoman Marg Scheben-Edey. She said they found that few communities in the region have collected proper data and have not set goals to meet the needs of our local communities. For example, they learned that, on average, renters learn half of what landlords do, which is important when it comes to targeting rental rates. According to the 2016 census, the median household income in southern Georgian Bay was $62,671. However, when broken down, owner households earned more than $76,000 while renter households earned less than $40,000. They also learned that more than 5,500 households in the area were in core housing need, meaning they were spending more than the accepted 30% of gross household income on housing or living in a inadequate or unsuitable housing.
Another important finding is that the region is losing affordable housing much faster than it is able to create it. While studies have shown that in Canada 15 units are lost for every unit created, Scheben-Edey says the ratio is much higher here. Gentrification, vacancy suppression, demolitions and a strong real estate market have resulted in the loss of multiple units in apartment buildings, rooming houses and single family homes with almost no new affordable units being created for replace them.
The task force engaged more than 400 people in a public inquiry into the matter and the responses were concerning. 63% of respondents said they would leave the area if affordable housing was not available. A number of respondents suggested that suicide would be an option. Among those receiving government assistance, those receiving CPP and/or OAS benefits topped the list.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Densification and increasing supply does not in itself create affordable housing unless there are policies related to affordability and increasing supply.
- The most urgent need is for rental housing
- Affordable housing is not social housing, which generally confuses the public. Complete communities have housing for all, which is based on households spending no more than 30% of gross income on housing costs, regardless of income level.
- Municipalities are important actors. Counties deal with supportive housing, but municipalities have tools that could and should be used to facilitate the creation of affordable housing for their residents.
- Housing for all is an essential part of a sustainable community future. If we cannot house people, there are consequences such as the loss of our workforce and businesses, increased physical and mental health impacts, and increased food insecurity.
“Affordable housing is really about economic development as well as about equity and inclusion,” Scheben-Edey said. “Safe, secure and affordable housing for all is a human right, but we are not providing it.”
The report indicates that all stakeholders, from all levels of government to not-for-profit organizations and the private sector, have a role to play. To start, the report includes a toolkit that municipalities can use to help solve the problem.
The task force will present its findings to local municipalities over the next month with recommendations that those who have not already done so should establish an affordable housing committee in their city to collect and analyze data, set targets, develop housing master plans and make appropriate recommendations to their local council on positive action that can be taken. They also hope that a regional committee can be set up to share learnings and resources.
A full copy of the report can be viewed on the Southern Georgian Bay Institute website at https://tisgb.com/newsletter/the-regional-housing-task-forces-latest-report-on-affordable-housing/