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Council votes to spend $75K to create new Affordable Housing Master Plan

‘We’re never going to be able to tackle this issue if we can’t collectively break out of our geographical boundaries,’ says deputy mayor

Council is hoping creating a new master plan will open the door to more affordable housing in Collingwood.

During Monday’s (Feb. 28) council meeting, councillors voted in favour of spending $75,000 on a consultant to come up with a new Affordable Housing Master Plan for the town. The funding will be pulled from the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, to which council allocated $350,000 in the 2022 budget.

Staff is recommending a timeline of having the Affordable Housing Master Plan completed and ready for council's review within six months of the contract award.

“We think that’s going to be important – to have a road map that prioritizes what can be done to truly increase affordable housing,” said Chief Administrative Officer Sonya Skinner.

According to current assessments, Collingwood needs between 400 and 500 new housing units to be built annually in order to keep up with demand.

“Over the last few years, the number of housing units being built annually does appear to meet the projected needs,” said Director of Planning, Building and Economic Development Summer Valentine. 

According to Valentine and the staff report submitted on Monday, there should be enough drinking water capacity between now and the water treatment plant expansion for the 400 to 500 new housing units needed annually. However, that could be impacted by industrial, commercial, and institutional growth that might also occur between now and the completion of the expansion in 2026.

The consultant will be tasked with answering a few key questions, whose answers will be implemented into the Affordable Housing Master Plan.

The plan will address:

  • whether the town should develop land and own/operate housing,
  • how the town could best implement financial incentives,
  • whether the town should support more intense infill developments,
  • whether the town should be making an annual investment into affordable housing as part of the budget process,
  • and how local employers, investors and developers could partner with the town on such endeavours.

As part of the 2022 budget, $80,000 was also allocated toward the hiring of an Affordable Housing Planning Specialist. In the staff report presented to council on Monday, a detailed job description was provided for the position.

During Monday’s presentation, Skinner said the new staff member would provide “white-glove service” to any developers looking to build affordable housing in Collingwood. The specialist will also be tasked with working with the consultant to craft the Affordable Housing Master Plan.

Back in November, councillors received a report from the Affordable Housing Task Force, which contained 53 recommendations; 47 of which could be implemented at the municipal level.

At that time, councillors also asked staff to report back within three months on the task force's recommendations around zoning and the town's Official Plan, and on the suggestion of establishing an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

SEE MORE: Task force suggests 53 ways town can improve affordable housing crisis

Some other recommendations out of the task force’s report include:

  • developing policies/zoning more inclusive to a broad range of housing types,
  • amending regulations addressing minimum building height and use mix,
  • eliminating parking minimums for multi-unit residential projects,
  • giving priority to building applications that include an affordable-housing component,
  • and fast-tracking accessory apartment applications and prohibiting short-term rentals in town.

As part of the staff recommendations considered on Monday night, staff are suggesting that while the task force suggested starting a town-sanctioned Affordable Housing Committee, the formation of the committee be put on hold until the new master plan is completed.

“I think it’s a terrific idea to bring back the Affordable Housing Task Force until such time as there is another entity,” said Coun. Yvonne Hamlin. “We have a lot of knowledgeable people on the (task force) and they have gained a lot of experience during the time the task force was operating.”

“We know now there is a shortage of personal support workers and police officers. We need rental housing here. I’m proud we have a report that will help us move forward on this in a timely fashion,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Keith Hull asked if the recently released Ontario Affordable Housing Task Force report helped in the formulation of the direction staff were recommending be taken.

He specifically referenced Collingwood’s heritage district, and asked if staff could report back at a later time on how some of the provincial recommendations could impact rules around heritage districts.

“The part I’ve struggled with for a long time with... we live in a region with four other municipalities. We’re never going to be able to tackle this issue if we can’t collectively break out of our geographical boundaries,” said Hull. “I’m hoping this staff person who is brought on is given some latitude to approach our neighbours to the south, east and west.”

“To continue to have the four municipalities continue to spend money... the reality is the majority of employees at our largest employer – Blue Mountain Resort – don’t live in that area,” he added.

After discussion, council voted unanimously in favour of spending $75,000 to hire a consultant to start work on an Affordable Housing Master Plan for the Town of Collingwood.

“We’re beginning a long journey, and I think this report is an excellent start,” said Mayor Brian Saunderson.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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