The Town of The Blue Mountains (TBM) staff and council is working on policy updates that will require new developments to include attainable housing units.
In a notice of motion at council March 15, Coun. Rob Sampson brought forward four objectives that aim to bring the town in line with the Planning Act, which requires municipalities to develop policies that encourage the development of attainable housing.
Sampson said the town and Grey County have not been living up to the Planning Act’s requirements so far.
“Sitting in this council chamber since the last election, we've seen a number of … projects come forward for approval, not one of them having an attainable housing unit in it,” Sampson said. "Yet [they receive] the consent and the support of the county, saying that it complies with their policy, when in fact it clearly doesn't.”
“Relying upon the words of the policy statement from the province, and the county to enforce their targets is not working,” Sampson said.
The four objectives brought forward by Sampson are as follows:
- That the town set attainability quota limits, requiring all developments with 10 or more units to include a minimum of 20 per cent attainable units.
- That the town updates its Official Plan to include attainability thresholds, requiring a unit to be priced at 80 per cent or less of its average assessed value, for both rental and ownership units.
- That the town update its Official Plan to include a process allowing developers to either build the required attainable units, or purchase units from a separate developer who has exceeded the 20 per cent requirement.
- That the town implement a development planning permit system, as required by the Planning Act, which will make the development approval process more streamlined and establish local priorities.
Council unanimously moved for staff to bring back a report on the proposed policy updates, including required timelines for their development and implementation.
“We have had this issue for far longer than COVID-19, far longer than the last few years,” said Coun. Andrea Matrosovs about housing issues in TBM. “The reason I am [supporting] this is because it is something that we can do, and we can try to align and work with the province as much as possible and do our bit.”
Coun. Paula Hope stressed the need for public engagement throughout the process.
“We want to make sure that there is full public review of all of this,” she said. “Review is really key with all of this, so we can make sure that we're able to make this really effective.”
Mayor Alar Soever said that giving developers the option to purchase attainable units from other developers could provide a good financial incentive for constructing attainable units.
“If there are builders, as there are in our community, that want to build $2 million dollar houses everywhere, they would have to either buy that quota from the developer building the more economical homes, or they would have to build themselves,” he said. “It's not likely that they would build it themselves, so then they would have to turn to the developer who had excess quota and say, ‘What do you want for your extra quota?’"
“It offers a very, very big financial incentive for people to build economical homes,” Soever said. “I'm hoping that we can interest a political party in the next election into picking this up, because it would be great if we could guarantee that 20 per cent of homes built throughout Ontario would be priced below the median price of a home.”