The Blue Mountains council has voted unanimously to develop an attainable housing strategy for the municipality.
At its meeting on July 11, council voted 6-0 in favour (Coun. Rob Sampson was absent) in favour of a resolution brought forward by Coun. Paula Hope requesting staff develop an attainable housing strategy based on a community needs assessment.
The resolution called on staff to work with community, faith-based and business organizations on the strategy, as well as with the Campus of Care Task Force and the Official Plan Steering Committee.
“This council has put a lot of effort, time and resources into attainable housing,” said Hope.
Hope noted that the town had made significant investments in the Gateway Project, added seniors' housing to the Campus of Care project, had heard from Blue Mountain Resorts about the need for employee housing and was having ongoing conversations about accessory units.
“We know that we’ve got some major concerns,” she said.
Her resolution stated in part: “Attainable housing in the Town of The Blue Mountains is at a crisis level, affecting its economy and the well-being of its current and future residents.”
The resolution was supported around the council table.
“This is a great initiative. We have people who can’t afford to live here,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon. “There are a lot of things we can do. It’s much needed here.”
Mayor Alar Soever said the cost of housing has become a huge concern across all sectors of the community. The mayor said he recently attended a garden party in Collingwood for local medical interns and housing was a topic of conversation.
“Attainable housing is a critical item, even for young doctors this is the premier issue for them,” said Soever. “They love The Blue Mountains, they don’t love the average resale price of $1.5 million. We need to continue to work on this.”
Coun. Andrea Matrosovs said she has heard the same concerns from young doctors.
“More than once I have met with potential new doctors, with young families just starting out coming with a boatload of school debts and they’re loving everything and then we get to the conversation about attainable housing,” she said.
Coun. Jim Uram agreed with the resolution, but was concerned about the scope and size of the request from council to staff.
“I’m very much in support of the direction this is taking. I’m wondering, who is going to do the work?” Uram asked, noting that he had looked at housing strategies developed by other communities. “They are not easy, they are very time-consuming.”
CAO Shawn Everitt said he would go back to the senior management team to have a discussion about how to proceed. He said a lot of work and study has been done on the attainable housing issue in the community. Everitt said staff’s initial approach may be to pull together a “high-level” report about the matter that can be delivered to council in September. He said a more comprehensive study may need to become a budget item for future consideration.
“I’m trying to be realistic in what we can bring back in a September/October time frame,” said Everitt.
The CAO noted that he wanted council to receive a full strategy about potential solutions, but also potential “roadblocks and hurdles” that are obstacles. Everitt noted that creating and establishing attainable housing units was one issue and keeping those units attainable was another issue entirely. He said he wanted to ensure the report outlined what “control mechanisms” exist or are needed.
Everitt said staff would produce a report for council’s meeting scheduled for September 27.