AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS
By Kirk Winter
Hope Lee, Manager of Housing for CKL, shared two reports with Council that clearly detailed the current crisis that exists regarding access to affordable housing within the City.
Lee shared some important history about geared-to-income housing in the City. In 2001, the Harris Tories downloaded “social housing” to the municipalities with many restrictions and little financial aid. The first constraint facing CKL was that, by law, the 871 units transferred by the province could not decrease in number. Many of the units were aging then, and it has proven more financially responsible to replace rather than renovate many of these aging units.
The City owns a very diverse group of properties that include:
Bachelor apartments – maximum income to live there $24,500
One-bedroom apartments – maximum income to live there $31,000
Two-bedroom apartments – maximum income to live there $36,000
Three-bedroom apartments/townhouses – maximum income to live there $43,500
Four-bedroom townhouses/apartments – maximum income to live there $54,000
There are currently 1,700 unique households waiting for access to City owned housing. A unique household is recognized as an individual, couple or family that has done the application paperwork, qualifies financially, and will gain access to one of the units once they become available.
Lee said that one- and two-bedroom units are in the highest demand, and that there has been a 375 percent increase in demand for geared-to-income housing in the City since 2013 as rents and purchase prices have skyrocketed, putting affordable housing beyond the reach of many. Here are some other startling statistics:
80 percent of the approved applicants are local people
35 percent of those individuals are seniors
42 percent are singles/couples
22 percent are families
20 percent of those on waiting lists are homeless and currently living in some kind of short-term emergency housing.
The problem for all of those on the wait list is that, on average, only 100 City-owned units turn over each year. With the need far outstripping the supply, the wait can be anywhere between five and seven years.
Lee said to catch up with the current demand, the City would need to build 200 new units a year for the next 10 years. Without federal and provincial assistance, those kind of build numbers remain a pipe dream.
The City is hoping that some federal and provincial funds will become available in late spring that will allow some building to move forward.
The municipality can aid in building by contributing land, offering tax holidays for builders, and waiving development fees for these kinds of projects.
Councilor O’Reilly wanted to know if tiny homes might contribute to an alleviation of this situation. Director Marshall, responsible for Building and Planning, said that as of yet no one has inquired or asked for building permits for that kind of structure.
Councillors I spoke to about this presentation bemoaned the reality that municipalities with the least amount of disposable income to spend have been left in the lurch by provincial downloading of geared to income housing. All wanted the province to step up and play a far larger role in providing affordable and safe housing for the people of Ontario who need a helping hand up.