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Lack of attainable housing in TBM creates dire situation for employers

Community officials are raising concerns around the ability to maintain services when staff cannot afford to live locally
2021_06_30 Thornbury Bruce Street S_JG
The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in TBM in May is estimated to be $2,950 a month

The lack of access to attainable housing in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is showing its impacts on vital community services. 

At a recent police service board meeting, Collingwood and Blue Mountains Ontario Provincial Police Detachment Commander Mary Shannon provided an overview of the staff members moving out of the local detachment. 

Shannon reported that four constables will be relocating to other Ontario communities by the end of the summer. And, although the detachment will be filling those roles with transfers and new recruits, she specifically noted the staff members are leaving the community as a direct result of skyrocketing housing costs. 

“We're starting to see some of our younger officers looking to exit this area because of housing concerns,” she said. “They can't find the opportunity to purchase affordable housing, or even to find affordable rent and it is now impacting their ability to stay in this location."

Recent statistics from the South Georgian Bay Association of Realtors notes that housing sales and prices have “not taken the foot off the gas since around June of last year”.

The total value of all the homes sold in the region during the month of May was $511 million, which is 163 per cent higher than last year’s May totals. 

According to the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC), which was established in 2014 to facilitate the creation of attainable housing units in the municipality, the average house price in TBM as of May 2021 was $995,115, which requires a household income of $188,399 to purchase. 

In addition, the BMAHC notes the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in TBM in May was $2,950 a month, requiring a household income of $117,882. 

TBM Mayor Alar Soever recently voiced his concern over the growing housing crisis during a special committee to the whole meeting held in late-June where the council was discussing a proposal for a new long-term care (LTC) facility in Thornbury. 

In its presentation to council, Southbridge Healthcare LP outlined plans to bring 160 much-needed new LTC beds to Thornbury

During the presentation, Soever highlighted the fact that, without intervention of some kind, the municipality may not be able to support that kind of infrastructure with the staff required because of the lack of attainable housing available in the region. 

“As I understand, for every [LTC] bed you create, you need one employee,” said Soever. “So by going from 60 to 100, even without the new requirements for additional care hours, we're adding 100 people who need attainable housing.”

“We recently had a small wood-framed house sell for $525,000,” Soever continued. “If these are single-family earners, it will be a challenge for them. And with interest rates rising in the future, there are huge issues with that,” Soever continued.  

In its proposal, Southbridge has incorporated attainable staff housing, however, with design plans yet to be confirmed it is still unclear how much housing the site will offer. 

As for the BMAHC, plans are in the works to create 250 units of attainable housing in TBM over the next five years through a minimum of two rental projects and one home-ownership project.

Currently, the BMAHC has its focus set on the Gateway site, which is located at 171 King St East in Thornbury. Site plans for the Gateway currently include one or two, four-story buildings that will house 84 units – 54 of which will be considered attainable – and 12,500-square-feet of commercial space.

The BMAHC anticipates finalizing the building contract for the Gateway project in 2021, with construction forecast to begin in early 2022, completion in 2023 and occupancy by 2024. 

Jennifer Golletz

About the Author: Jennifer Golletz

Jennifer Golletz covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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