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New Talbot development draft plan fails to receive approval

UPDATE FEB. 17: The draft plan for the Talbot Street development failed to receive approval by council Wednesday night in an 8-6 vote following extensive conversation related to balancing the need for attainable/affordable housing with a related need for higher density.

An amending motion from Councillor Janice Maynard to allow the possibility of a cash community benefit, in lieu of the usual things like sidewalks and parkland, that could be directed to the County’s Affordable Housing Corporation for projects was supported by council prior to the main vote.

Councillor Jamie Forrester was among those who stated the project’s density was way too high (at 51 instead of a target of 25).

“I would like to see at some point down the road that my children or some of my friends’ children could actually afford to live here, because it’s not happening right now. This is a very difficult decision for council… We have to ask ourselves, what do we want our community to be down the road?”

Councillor Bailey agreed with Forrester and Maynard and was also concerned precedent would be set for future developers.

Councillor Phil St-Jean supported the developer though he agreed with some points from the other councillors.

“I see this plan, on its third or fourth iteration now, has progressively addressed concerns of residents. I see this as future planning. We need more housing and I don’t think anyone can deny that. We need more housing that is more attainable and more affordable. Single family dwellings on large lots is from the 90s, the 2000s. We need to move away from that,” he said, noting the density numbers better reflected those times.

“Density is the only way we are going to be able to address any form of affordability or attainability in this community… This should go ahead because this is how our community is going to grow.”

Councillor Bill Roberts also supported the project and called others to look at the numbers.

“We are looking at the average price of a home within the next 12 months in the County being $650,000. Also, we have had a price increase in the County on the average house of 41 per cent over last year. That is double the increase in prices for houses in Toronto where it’s about 20 per cent according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

“One of the factors is inventory. We have no inventory here in the County and that is driving prices up, as are STA (short-term-accommodations) acquisitions driving the prices up. We need inventory for people within that $275,000-$375,000 bracket and it may well be the last time we see market forces delivering it. That remains to be seen.”

Talbot sub-division may be last affordable housing option

JAN. 27
By Sharon Harrison

Developer David Cleave warned the County’s planning committee that the Talbot on the Trail development may be the last affordable housing the County will see for some time due to a surging housing market and soaring construction costs.

“It may be that not everyone gets to live in Prince Edward County that wants to live in Prince Edward County,” said Cleave, on the challenges faced with meeting affordability criteria. “This may be the last sub-division we see the affordability,“ he said.

The proposed Picton sub-division was before council Tuesday for Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendment consideration.

The project has been reduced to 238 units from 258 and originally 290 in a market where building costs, materials and labour are all increasing.

“Land costs are going through the roof. It is a complicated business and you can see it right here playing out. Building costs are going through the roof. My point of the conversation is we are trying hard to get there: density equals affordability.”

A project that is not profitable will see no developers taking the risk, said Cleave.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and this is the first time people are coming to the County to buy houses like this. It may end in five years, or three years. It’s finding the sweet spot.”

No matter how we try to build a $275,000 house, it’s not in the math. It won’t happen,” said Cleave.

Talbot of the Trail see 36 per cent of its homes at $375,000; 31 per cent at that or less; 23 per cent at $530,000 and 10 per cent at $400,000.

Planner Jennifer Wood explained affordable housing is generally considered to be accommodation cost which does not exceed 30 per cent of the gross annual income of the household. A second option considered is housing with a purchase price at least 10 per cent below the average price of resale units.

“Based on house prices right now, I think we can assume that we know right now, and we can assume for the foreseeable future, that option number two is never going to be the cheaper option in these two scenarios.”

“The major challenge we are all thinking about is the average house price in the County in 2020 was $620,000,” she said. “And it is safe to assume that household income has not increased at the same rate.”

She noted the Talbot on the Trail development plan has been continually tweaked to “find a sweet spot of increasing the density and getting more units on the market affordable to more households.” She also stated 40 per cent of households in the County earn less than $45,000 a year. But, adding that 67 per cent of the units are estimated to cost $375,000 or less, meets the 33 per cent target noted in the Secondary Plan.

“The fact that we can no longer build affordable housing in the County really scares me,” said councillor Jamie Forrester. “It used to be that density was affordability. We are now seeing on this project that density is no longer affordable,” said Forrester. “Based on the sum of the numbers, affordability is no longer an option in the County.”

Councillor Stewart Bailey asked Cleave how certain he was that the price points suggested can be achieved when the project is finished.

“We start in a moment in time. We can’t ignore that the market has moved 30 per cent from December 2019 to 2020; you can’t ignore it. We will give our best shot to start,” he said.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton asked about anticipated condominium fee costs and though Cleave stated he hasn’t done budgets yet, it would be in the range of $149 per month, a figure that was very affordable.

“I am much more comfortable with this plan, although it is unfortunate we are going to lose density which decreases affordability,” added councillor Phil St-Jean. “I feel this is a very good plan.”

St.-Jean, at the beginning of that evening’s regular council meeting, said he is drafting a motion for council’s Feb. 11 meeting to ask staff to identify and define affordable housing in the County.

Mayor Ferguson agreed concerns highlighted need to be part of a much broader discussion to seek resolutions.

The planning meeting before Tuesday’s council meeting was a continuation of a marathon planning meeting last Wednesday where many ratepayers raised concerns about the project.

Planner Wood described additional changes made to the plan, incorporating comments received from the public over the environmental protection area (EPA), affordability, density and compatibility. Wood also confirmed trees would be replaced a minimum one-to-one ratio, with a goal of a two-to-one ratio, if possible.

“We have received comments and concerns about the loss of vegetation in the northern portion of the site and we are proposing to reconfigure and relocate the park block and some of the residential uses in the north to preserve a little more of that existing vegetation area.”

Another changes is losing four stacked townhouses, “essentially, replaced with front-loaded towns will go a long way to address some of the concerns about land use transition and density.”

Resident Wendy LeBlanc had said she was representing over 50 neighbours with concerns about the development.

“The Secondary Plan for Picton speaks to the issue of affordable housing which we are all in agreement is lacking in the community,” said LeBlanc. “290 townhomes, many of them condos with additional monthly maintenance fees, and with the potential population of over 500 people, and goodness knows how many vehicles, are being sequestered to a small segment of land on an outer corner of our community. “This development does not meet with the intent of the Secondary Plan in creating a viable integrated and well-planned community with small-town charm and quality of life.”

Bruce Laidlaw was unhappy about the removal of a beautiful town forest involving approximately 100 trees, calling it, “a proposed high risk development… Stacked townhouses three-and-a-half to four storeys high do not fit the fabric of the Picton community.”

“When I hear of a proposed plan to take out more than 100 trees in one of the last remaining forested areas within town limits right beside our precious Milllennium Trail, I begin to question whether or not we have gone too far,” said Greg Hinde. His concerns also extended to multi-storey densely packed stacked townhouse on a grade that already sits high above his property and that of his neighbours. “Is this the right development?”

Nancy White stated the County is “setting a dangerous precedent by approving a sub-division that are more than double what the Secondary Plan recommends for our community.”

Councillor Bill Roberts asked if anything can be done to avoid the flipping of these units into short-term accommodations. Cleave said he expected it to be a very low percentage due to licensing restrictions.

Staff recommended a referral back to staff to a future planning meeting to be held in February.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Emily says:

    So revise the plan to construct residential bungalows at 500 – 600 K. Who loses?

  2. Michelle says:

    Is Council looking at lower density, houses on individual lots? If so the price goes up bigtime, certainly not what most would consider affordable. This may be a missed opportunity.

  3. SM says:

    Urban planners will tell you that increased density is necessary to spread the cost of development over more individual properties. Developers will not build if they cannot turn a profit.

  4. IGN says:

    Agree with Craig. The new draft official plan fails to demonstrate an understanding of the economics of development in the County. It’s one thing to talk about affordable housing but to assume that’s going to arise by artificially loading all development in a few small areas with infrastructure already straining to meet current demand and a premise that “the developers will pay for it” is naive. Developers are in business and those increased costs will be reflected in the prices of what they construct. Add to this a proposal in the draft plan to halve the ability to sever rural lots – which unless the 30 year old clock is reset …which I gather isn’t the intention – will result in effectively halting the emergence of new lots, further driving up land prices and closing off yet another avenue for ‘attainable’ housing.

  5. Craig says:

    I would gladly consider building a $275,000 or less additional rental suite on my property if I was allowed. However, as it stands, I have used up my “secondary suite” allowance by incorporating a walkout basement apartment in my new house build a few years ago. We’re on 20 acres here, between Milford and Picton. I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to help, but not permitted to do so.

  6. Jesse Parker says:

    If housing must be detached homes on big lots AND located in town AND have a price that low income families can afford then no new housing will be built because those 3 things don’t go together. Our municipality could spend some effort on the other side of this problem: attracting business and full-time employment to make housing more affordable.

  7. SM says:

    At least here is a developer who is willing to speak some truth. Affordable housing is now just a concept. Developers will not build unless they can make money on the deal. We don’t know how long the level of demand will keep up. As Mr Cleave said: I’ve been doing this for 35 years and this is the first time people are coming to the County to buy houses like this. It may end in five years, or three years. It’s finding the sweet spot.”
    I hope that County Council will remember those words when they think about the Wellington water project. Failing to do so will saddle us with $100,000,000 of debt.

  8. Gary says:

    Nice to hear a developer tell it like it is.

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