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Lack of diversity in County’s affordable housing

By Ross Lees
Prince Edward County Council has begun its work on the affordable housing issue Mayor Peter Mertens addressed in his inaugural speech.
Monday night, council heard a strategic action plan for affordable housing in the County from Ed Starr, of SHS Consultants and Ken Foulds of Refact Contractors. The plan was developed on behalf of the Affordable Housing Working Group of PEC.
The executive summary states affordable housing is aimed at ensuring that housing is available at a cost that does not compromise an individual’s ability to meet other basic needs. It can range from publicly-funded social housing to rental and ownership housing and as such, can include a first-time home buyer, a single parent needing adequate housing, a senior citizen on a fixed income, a person no longer able to work due to a disability or unforeseen circumstance, or simply those with modest incomes.
Foulds said it was clear there is a lack of diversity in affordable housing in the County and that changing demographics make this an ideal time to delve into the situation.
Affordable housing in the Prince Edward County is diverse in age and condition, Foulds said.
Driven by growing tourism and the rise of creative rural industries, high economic growth has placed upward pressure on land values and the price of housing in the County, the report states, resulting in a range of issues to be addressed.
1. There is limited diversity in the supply of housing despite changing demographics.
2. The age and condition of some older stock housing influences the quality of available housing.
3. The County has experienced a loss of private rental housing.
4. There is a limited supply of social housing units in the area despite sustained demand.
5. The rising cost of housing has eroded affordability in the local housing market.
6. There is a locak of emergency housing options in the County, forcing those in need to seek assistance elsewhere.
7. With the aging of the population, there is a limited supply of seniors housing that provides support services.
8. There is a limited supply of accessible housing in the County.
9. There is a lack of supportive housing options in the community to address those with special housing needs.
Foulds said there were definite affordability issues in the County, especially with every day housing.
“Many people are now being forced to look outside the community,” he said, noting the general aging of the population is driving certain housing requirements. Supportive housing, for instance, has limited patrons but is a growing area of the population, he said.
The strategic action plan, he said, needs to develop in five broad strategic directions – leadership and co-ordination; policy development, resources and incentives, education and advocacy and partnerships.
First, the County needs to get organized to address the issues and a political framework is required. He suggested the County may wish to join forces with Lennox and Addington County to address common issues.
Policy development is key with the new official plan review – including expanded policy authority and the fast-tracking of affordable projects, he stated.
“Resources and incentives have to be initiated including extending and formalizing of relief from development charges and fees.”
Education and advocacy is important, as is encouraging a broad range  of membership on the working group, he added.
“An implementation plan is needed to move forward,” he said, adding, “you are in an excellent position. The report is in a position to do very well (with funding requests).”
The full report is here: http://princeedward.fileprosite.com/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=37856

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    I believe that there are things that can be done locally, at no direct cost to the taxpayer. As an example, the original Kaitlin development plan (Wellington) was rejected by Council in part because of a lack of affordable housing. The revised plan included affordable apartments, townhouses and semi-detached houses and was approved by a 12 to 4 vote of Council.

    Note: There was a word missing in my earlier comment — should have read “..on weekends OR in the warmer months only.”

  2. Doris Lane says:

    Chris Keen is correct. At this time we do not have the resources to begin to make any appreciable difference in affordable housing.
    Ken Foulds seems to have a pie in the sky attitude as to what we can achieve.
    Maybe as a contractor this all sounds very good to him but as taxpayers we know that this is not the time to forge ahead in this direction.
    Gary Mooney makes a good point about houses that are used for vacation rentals and could be used for year round rentals.

  3. Chris Keen says:

    With all due respect to Mr. Foulds, I think that most of points he makes could be applied to almost anywhere in Canada. Affordable housing is a national problem and its solution is going to take federal funding (perhaps we could save a few billion on new jets) to begin to make a difference. As a County, we simply do not have the resources to begin to make any appreciable difference.

  4. Gary Mooney says:

    A couple of points:

    Some rental housing that could be used year-round is instead being used on weekends in the warmer months only.

    Affordability in Picton and Wellington is a challenge because of high and rapidly increasing charges for water and wastewater services — will be $111 per month in 2011 for a family of three.

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