Affordable Housing is often a confusing term, even for developers - it depends somewhat on whether you are talking "affordable," meaning "reasonably priced" or Affordable, with an upper case A, which has a specific meaning based on local market conditions and income. It is also often further complicated by the differences between subsidized or social housing, rent geared to income (RGI), Seniors' or Supportive Housing, rental versus home ownership - and so on.
The PSVA became active in 2017 in advocating for Affordable Housing partly because of our belief that additional Seniors Housing in Port Stanley was needed, but also because of rising real estate prices, new housing development, the challenge for young families and individuals working in local businesses to find affordable accommodation, and a shortage of suitable, reasonably priced year-round rental housing in an environment where high rents are the norm during the summer tourist season.
In February 2019, the PSVA, represented by board member Wendy MacMillan, attended a housing forum for Municipalities, organized by Oxford County, called "Housing. Let's get into it!" Many local municipalities attended, including our own, and shared their experiences and ideas related to this theme:
Housing is essential to the wellbeing and economic vibrancy of our communities, but demand has been exceeding supply for decades. Without adequate housing, it is difficult—if not impossible—for individuals to have employment, food security, social and educational opportunities, or even health. With low rental vacancies, unaffordable rents, and the lack of “missing middle” housing options, finding suitable and affordable housing is a crisis for some people. For municipalities and their partners, establishing the right range and mix of housing supply has become increasingly difficult given the strong demand for housing and the spike in building costs.
Some of the presentation materials from this conference are included below for those who would like to do some further reading. The Housing Forum Infographic is particularly effective at describing the Housing Continuum from emergency shelters to home ownership and clarifying Affordable versus other forms of housing.
This conference was very helpful in providing a background for the PSVA to understand and advocate for Affordable Housing at a time when new housing developments were being planned in Port Stanley. We were not as successful as we would like to have been, in ensuring that Affordable Housing was made a part of the mix by CE Council in approving those developments. There are plans for apartment buildings but no firm commitments for rental apartments versus condominiums and no commitments for affordable rents. There will be significant development here in Port in the next 2-5 years with major impact on the infrastructure of the village and without commitments for Affordable Housing.
In September 2019, the PSVA organized a presentation on Affordable Housing at a member meeting and invited CE Councillors and staff to attend. It was presented by Elizabeth Sebestyen, then the Director of St Thomas - Elgin Social Services and Neil Watson, a Housing Development Consultant. It provided attendees with education on this topic and encouraged Council to consider the need to provide incentives or requirements for developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in new development proposals. The slide deck from this presentation is included below.
An Affordable Housing Focus Group was formed by CE as a result of PSVA advocacy related to Senior Housing in the summer of 2018. It met for the first time in August 2019.
The work plan for this Focus group can be found here:
Wendy MacMillan, Board Member and Dan Ross, President represented the PSVA on this Focus Group, along with staff, Councillors, community members and developers and Tim Welch Consulting (TWC). Tim was requested to provide advice to the Focus Group on implementing, in Central Elgin, the recommendations he had made in the Long-term St Thomas-Elgin Affordable and Social Housing Strategy. His report to the Focus Group is included here:
This report includes 9 recommendations for CE to pursue as follows:
Generate awareness and interest among homeowners by creating education programs that promote the creation of second units in newly built and existing dwellings - Short Term(1 year) Goal: Increase the supply of rental housing
Central Elgin should update their zoning bylaws to provide reasonable development standards for second units - Short –Medium Term (1-2 years) Goal: Increasing rental housing for households with low incomes
Identify locations where second units should not be permitted due to servicing capacity or natural hazard concerns
Require no more than one additional parking space for a second residential unit. Permit tandem parking (with minimum driveway width and ensuring that all other provisions of the City’s zoning by-laws are complied with)
Flexibility with requirements for the provision of a second entrance
Minimum sizes should not be any larger than other minimum unit size requirements in the municipality
Central Elgin should implement financial incentive options (and encourage the County of Elgin to similarly adopt financial incentive options) for affordable housing developments. Short-Medium Term (1 -2 years) Goal: Encourage provision of affordable rental housing. These could include:
Waiving development approval fees
Waiving/deferring development charges and parkland fees
Tax increment financing over a long-period of time or property tax exemption
Central Elgin should create a municipal housing facilities by-law and a Community Improvement Plan for affordable housing (with the goal of providing financial assistance), defining affordable housing as rental units with average rent (as reported by CMHC) or less - Short term (1 Year) Goal: Encourage the development of diverse housing stock
Central Elgin should reach out to potential housing collaborators, including private developers and community groups, to identify underutilized and surplus land within Central Elgin which would be suitable for affordable rental housing - Short term (1 year) Goal: Increasing rental housing for households with low incomes
Have the Municipality of Central Elgin and the County of Elgin review their land holdings, and identify sites suitable for new multi-residential use and transfer (or provide a long-term lease) to the proponent of the new municipal housing - Short term (4 - 6 months) Goal: Diversify Housing Stock
Host an affordable housing information session which would link rental housing proponents and first time home buyers to CMHC and Service Manager housing assistance programs. Ideally this will lead to a local champion/sponsor of new housing, to submit a seed application and access other existing CMHC programs and reach out to the Service Manager about accessing potential capital funds - Short Term (4- 6 months) Goal: create awareness of housing assistance programs, identify proponents of affordable housing
Improve Municipal Regulatory and Processing Tools (i.e. expedited processing and reducing parking requirement to 1:1 for new affordable housing) - Short Term (1 year) Goal: Encourage provision of affordable rental housing
Have Central Elgin Council provide clear direction to Municipal Staff to require a portion of all new housing developments include a portion of units as affordable in order to meet the Official Plan Goal. This requirement should be combined with incentives in recommendation 3. Short/Medium term (2 months – to 5 years) Goal: Encourage provision of affordable rental housing
The TWC report was accepted by Council and staff were requested to prepare a report for Council’s consideration outlining costs and processes to implement the report's Recommended Actions with such costs to be incorporated into the 2020 proposed budget. Pandemic-related activities in 2020, continuing in 2021, have resulted in delays and the specific recommendations do not appear to have been assessed or implemented to date. They have, however, been acknowledged in budget commentaries in 2020 and 2021 along with Official Plan updates and it is our intent to follow up with Council shortly. The budget commentary for 2021 can be found here: