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Non-profit corporation “long overdue” to fight County housing crisis

Several community members expressed support and appreciation to council for taking the next step to move toward creating a County Not-for-Profit Housing Corporation.

Councillors at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting heard from several members of the public hoping to see the establishment of the corporation approved at council’s meeting in September, and enacted by January.

“Action is long-overdue,” said councillor Treat Hull. “By the nature of municipal process it took us four years to get to this point and that points out the urgent need for an independent body that can actually get stuff done at the pace it needs to get done.”

Kathy Kennedy, executive director of the Prince Edward Learning Centre, told councillors she sees the effects of the local housing crisis.

“We are working with people every day who are really struggling to stay in the community and have very few options based on their income,” she said.

She shared statistics from PELC’s Inspire program which is federally-funded to help people upgrade skills and develop work experience to match employers’ labour shortage and needs.

Kennedy said that of last year’s 32 participants, 18 were inadequately housed; seven had insecure housing trying to juggle school and employment while couch-surfing or living in an unhealthy relationship; five had to leave Prince Edward County because they couldn’t secure housing and six were living with family as they had no other option. The program is for people who are starting out, have no income, have social assistance or minimum wage income.

“We see the crisis in all of those areas,” she said.

Ashley Watson, on behalf of the Prince Edward Learning Centre, gave personal insight into the need to prioritize attainable housing.

As a single mom with two small kids, Watson said she has been through many hard times, but is “a survivor” and received her social service worker college diploma at age 28.

“I work helping other young people to overcome barriers such as finishing high school,” she said. “Attainable housing is important to all the people I work with. “It’s important to me because I spend far more than 30 per cent of my income on a home. This means I have to cut corners on healthy lunches, outings or anything for my children, really. Picton is also the only place that I’ve ever put roots down and I really don’t want to have to leave. I think the work I’m doing here is important and I have a lot to offer this community and I’m here to show support for council to create a non-profit housing corporation.”

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Company, housing is considered to be affordable when a household spends less than 30 per cent of its pre-tax income on shelter.

Barry Davidson, who with other community members is working to change the former Wellington area property into housing, also spoke in support of the corporation and noted the Wellington Affordable Housing Network, is now called the “attainable” housing network to help ease any stigma.

Approval of the corporation is among necesary steps the municpality must take to allow such projects to come to fruition.

“As soon as we know that action is in place, we will be able to develop the architectural drawings and prepare our site plan for the arena lands,” he said. “So I’m glad things are moving forward.”

Earlier this year, municipal staff struck an interdepartmental Affordable Housing Tasks Team to investigate the issue and solutions.

It concluded its research this summer and presented Committee of the Whole with a business case for the establishment of a County-initiated, independent Not-For-Profit Affordable Housing Corporation whose mandate would be to increase the supply of affordable housing in Prince Edward County through a broad range of activities.

The team states that in Prince Edward County, approximately 27 per cent of current households are at, or above, the CMHC 30 per cent threshold – based on 2018 market rent rates.

Using the County’s growth study estimating the growth of 1,653 households over the next 20 years, their report states 462 future unites would be needed to meet the affordability criteria – meaning 24 new affordable unites per year for the next 20 years. “And this wouldn’t begin to address the existing needs of the 3,810 households that are already spending more than 30 per cent on their household income on shelter.”

A recent County rental vacancy study also confirmed the long-term vacancy rate to be just .81 per cent, and identified a trend of conversions from long-term to short-term rentals.

“Affordability and availability have become significant challenges for business growth and sustainability of our year-round population with inventories near an all-time low and prices near an all-time high,” the task team report states.

“This trend will not likely subside – requiring an unprecedented 35 per cent fall in housing prices in order to restore the relation of house prices to income back to 2013 levels, and the return on investment for short-term rentals – even with the potential of heightened regulation – remaining more attractive and lucrative than investment in long-term rental development.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson shared statistics he had researched showing Prince Edward County has more than 639 hosts for 1,000 active short-term rentals, 83 per cent of which are entire home rentals (or about 6.3 per cent of houses in the County).

“Short-term rentals aren’t the entire culprit, but they are a contributer,” he said, noting some form of tax from providers could generate affordable housing funds.

A housing corporation was identified as the most effective means of supporting and delivering a broad range of housing through varying degrees of support, facilitation financing, development or operation. Key advantages of a County-initiated corporation include access to financial and land resources, centralized fund-raising, and input from the Prince Edward Lennox Addington Social Services.

“I would hope it will open up doors to new sources of funds that would never give money to the municipality,” Hull said. “If we can use it to leverage new money and particularly money from outside the County to support affordable housing, I think we will have been a big success.”

The corporation is to be independent of County council, but the new council will select the board with a competency matrix designed to leverage community expertise and participation with members who have met core experience and qualifications.

“Whether the new council takes him up on his offer or not, I am happy to see individuals of the calibre of former finance minister are willing to sit on the board. Mr. (Gregory) Sorbara was not only finance minister for many years but his family is a large developer,” said Hull. “If people of that experience are available in the community, it gives me a lot of hope that we can have a very energetic and competent board to see this forward.”

Three “placeholder” councillors have been appointed for signatory matters in the meantime. There are to be nine directors, of which two will be members of council, forming a board of directors to be appointed by incoming council prior to Jan. 31, 2019.

The report recommends approximately $180,000 be allocated to the Prince Edward County Housing Corporation to establish bylaws and seed funding. Staff time would be allocated in-kind.

Click here for detailed report, and background.

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  1. Steve Staniek says:

    Local media seem to have dropped the election ball. Has any media group or individual in the County actually come forward with an organized list of hot issues for this deeply important election? Where could one find that list?

  2. Fred says:

    This Municipality is significantly in debt. Yet they continue on oblivious and feel a need to address every social issue or special interest group. There does come a time when you have to say no. Perhaps the snow plowing issue and water crisis will create a realization of what is affordable.

  3. Chuck says:

    I think a review of all services we are now involved in needs to be undertaken by the new Council. While noble,food hubs,buying schools, affordable housing (whatever that is today),young farmers funding etc. etc. we may not be able to afford. The water crisis rates seems to dead and ignored. Back to basic services and let up on the tourism.

  4. Paul Cole says:

    I think you will find Prince Edward County is in fact already involved in Non Profit Housing formerly known as Ontario Housing. The PC party and Mike Harris downloaded the social housing project to municipalities. PEC’s property management is done through Lennox and Addington Social services/housing.

  5. Mike Rodgers says:

    On the subject of by law officers. I am told that they have been instructed to ignore infractions unless there is a complaint. Has any one else heard this. That might explain some of the infractions that are being addressed.

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    it’s my understanding that County government will play the role of facilitator of affordable housing and will not get involved in providing capital for projects. Capital will come from private developers.

  7. Mark says:

    Good point. I do not know how we afford it all. Only one taxpayer and there are not that many of us. How do we manage roads, snow removal, unsustainable water costs and tackle the housing issue.

  8. Benjamin David says:

    Non-profit housing seems to be the only way to deal with housing but can the County afford to get in the housing business? Toronto’s TCHC is about $2 billion in the red at this time so that should be kept in mind.

  9. Emily says:

    The bylaw calls for a building permit but at no cost for the permit or signage. How did these illegal enormous political signs get approved?

  10. Chuck says:

    So where are our bylaws officers driving around everyday? Their job. Has there not been a fine levied at this point? Why are we receiving parking tickets but a mayoral candidate’s signs are allowed?

  11. Barney Rubble says:

    The election sign bylaw says a limit of 4 ft by 4 ft. If you see the cartoon on Wellington Times, me thinks the acting mayor that signed that bylaw has some de-construction to undertake. Lol

  12. Chris Keen says:

    Phil: Here are the regulations for Ontario’s Transient Accommodation Tax

    Nowhere here that I can see does it say that monies collected can be used for anything other than promoting tourism. “Destination Marketing Fee” is the term used to describe the tax being collected from transients staying in tourist accommodation.

  13. Gary Mooney says:

    What is affordable rent for someone making minimum wage?

    $14 per hour x 35 hours per week x 4.33 weeks per month = $2,126 per month earnings pre-tax.

    Affordable rent = 30% x 2,126 = $638.

    For two people making minimum wage and living together, affordable rent = 2 x $638 = $1,276 per month.

  14. Emily says:

    The Picton Gazette reported on March 20,2018, that Councilor O’Brien stated she had no intention of running for Mayor upon being selected Acting Mayor. She did not view this as a stepping stone. Hmmmm.

  15. Chuck says:

    If O’Brien becomes Mayor, Ameliasburg will hold 35% of the County Council vote!! The Council resize really let us all down.

  16. Emily says:

    Agree! We have been under represented.

  17. Gary says:

    We require 2 strong Councillors in Picton Ward. The water/wastewater is killing people and deterring any growth.

  18. Fred says:

    I do not want the current Council adding on more expenditures resulting in the new Council having to own it and raise taxes.

  19. Phil St-Jean says:

    Also the figure quoted in the story above should have read $10,000 seed money to be used to set up the corporation. Read legal and filing fees for articles of incorporation.
    $180,000 is the balance of the existing money set out in 2018 budget for affordable housing.
    The next council will decide how much municipal funding it gets for initial operating funds when the 2019 budget is deliberated upon.
    As per the discussion at Committee of the whole and the answers Neil Carbone gave yesterday the housing Corp. will be able to access non base funding streams, grants from feds & provincial sources to operate with after it is set up.

  20. Phil St-Jean says:

    For clarity on the issue
    Transient Accomodation Tax (tourist tax) is different from the Destination Marketing Fee
    TAT is recently approved by the province as a new source of revenue
    for municipalities and can be used however the municipality sees fit.
    DMF must be used as a source of funds strictly for marketing. It cannot be used to support infrastructure.
    I think we’ve successfully marketed our community some would say we are now the victims of our success. So a DMF would not be of any assistance.
    TAT is the correct way to go because it does not add a further burden to our already overtaxed residents.
    <25,000 population cannot continue to support the million plus visitors we see every year not without the million plus visitors paying a small fair share.
    We have a lot of challenges in the County with very limited resources
    A TAT is a good place to start.
    The challenge will remain as to which areas of the tourist sector will have to charge it, how much to charge and how to regulate it.
    A lot to do for the next council if its to be implemented for 2019 budget year.

  21. Chris Keen says:

    Thanks Dennis, I will email the Mayor. I find it odd that there is no mention of this anywhere on line.

  22. Dennis Fox says:

    Chris – I had a recent conversation with our Mayor and he assured me that this is the case. There may be changes to the Act that do not yet appear. However, lets hope that it is true. I have no problem with tourists or with people who want to provide accommodation for them, provided they both pay their way and do not lean on other taxpayers to foot the bill for them.

    If you feel that you need more info and proof – talk with the Mayor, thats what did.

  23. Chris Keen says:

    Dennis: I would appreciate you pointing me to the legislation that allows municipalities to tax property owners hosting tourists and use that money for infrastructure. This is not outlined in the Municipal Act 2001 (revised). Nor do the regulations governing the Transient Accommodation Tax say anything other than the monies raised can ONLY be used to promote tourism.

  24. Dennis Fox says:

    Chris Keen – first the tourist tax I am talking about would come from the property owners via the tourists. Plus I would expect that such businesses would need permits – a win win for us all. Secondly, the province is now allowing municipalities to charge this tax AND use it towards infrastructure needs – the permit we should have had in place years ago. Last year Councillor Ferguson claimed that this collected tourist money could be found within the municipal budget document – a budget line that never existed.
    I am very happy to read that a year later, he is now supporting such an idea.

  25. Chris Keen says:

    Dennis, the tax Ferguson mentions if enacted would be paid by the property owners in question. The County cannot tax tourists directly.

    Provincial law is clear: a municipality only has property/education taxes and fees for services as revenue sources.

  26. Dennis Fox says:

    The co-op housing idea is a good one -so hopefully it will help solve some of the housing problems – but the money to build is still the problem.

    However, I was very happy to see that Councillor Ferguson has asked staff to do a report on developing a “short term rental tax” – for a guy who less than a year ago claimed that taxing tourists was a bad idea – happy to see he agrees with me now.

  27. Gary says:

    Not against this but were these dollars in the approved budget? If not this lame duck Council should not be allocating these dollars. Perhaps that could be clarified.

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