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Task force suggests 53 ways town can improve affordable housing crisis

'There is not one magic bullet solution to solve this complex problem,' said chair of Collingwood's Affordable Housing Task Force
2021-04-14 House key
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Collingwood council took a stand as a starting point on Monday, giving initial approval for recommendations to address Collingwood’s affordable housing crisis.

Councillors received a report from the Affordable Housing Task Force on Monday during their strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, which contains 53 recommendations.

As part of their discussions on the matter, council members voted in favour of requesting a staff report within the next six months on several of the recommendations made by the task force, including a plan for the town-owned Johnson Trust Apartments, a request to start a reserve fund and land trust, and the possibility of hiring an Affordable Housing Planning Specialist as part of the 2022 budget deliberations. 

Council members 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.

“Every single person in this community is affected by this issue, whether they know it or not,” said Marg Scheben-Edey, vice-chair of the task force. “Affordable housing is an issue that affects our future.”

Other recommendations out of the report presented on Monday include: 

  • developing policies/zoning that are 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.

“There is not one magic bullet solution to solve this complex problem. The solution lies in collaboration between all levels of government, the not-for-profit sector, and private developers/builders,” said Nancy Esson, chair of the task force.

As part of the presentation, Nick Michael, of N. Barry Lyon Consultants Limited, presented information about Collingwood based on census data.

“My role was to put a bit of a finer point on what is happening in the local real estate market,” said Michael. “What we’re seeing is, housing in Collingwood is unaffordable. You have a growing population. Many would-be purchasers are turning to the rental market.”

“Owners are earning about twice as much as renters,” said Michael.

The report included staggering statistics on the state of housing market, affordability and the earnings of people living in Collingwood.

Over 70 per cent of renter households earn less than $60,000 per year, with 20 per cent earning less than $20,000. The inverse is true for ownership households, with over 34 per cent earning more than $100,000.

As of July 2021, the median price of a single-family home in Collingwood is $815,500 (up 214 per cent since 2011, 40.5 per cent since last year), for a condo townhouse is $646,723 (up 188 per cent since 2011, 57.7 per cent since last year) and for a condo apartment is $547,900 (up 163 per cent since 2011, 39.2 per cent since last year).

Average rents have increased 134 per cent since 1990 (average annual increase of three per cent). Rents have been increasing more rapidly in recent years, averaging over five per cent since 2016.

“There’s really rapid and aggressive price escalation,” said Michael.

Collingwood has added only 213 new rental units since 2008 (six per cent of all housing completions), with 147-units being associated with the Simcoe County Second Street affordable housing development.

Collingwood’s population is growing quickly, with more than 10,000 new full-time and seasonal residents expected to be living in the town by 2031.

“If we don’t, as a community, start to make some serious changes... it is going to have lasting consequences to the things that we cherish the most in our community,” said Deputy Mayor Keith Hull, who also served on the task force.

The Affordable Housing Task Force was formed earlier this year and has been tasked with informing council on a variety of matters relating to affordable housing, including making recommendations on how to deal with town-owned lands on Birch Street, make recommendations on local planning policies, as well as grant/funding opportunities for affordable housing development.

The decision made at the Nov. 1 meeting is not final yet and will have to be ratified by council at a future meeting. 

To access the full report from the task force, click here.

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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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