20-year plan sets new housing goals
By Chad Ingram
A new 20-year housing master plan for Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes calls for the creation of 5,500 new housing units between the two municipalities.
Haliburton County councillors were visited by Lisa Oliveira of the Housing Services Corporation, a provincial agency, and Hope Lee, manager of housing services for the City of Kawartha Lakes, during a meeting in late June. The City of Kawartha Lakes is the social services manager for Haliburton County, overseeing programming and administering funding.
Oliveira presented the plan, entitled From Housing Assets to Housing People, to councillors. It lays out housing goals for the area until 2041.
Chief among those goals is the creation of 5,500 new housing units during the next 22 years. That would mean 100 per year being created within the City of Kawartha Lakes, and 40 per year within the county.
These units need not necessarily be newly constructed, but could be created on redeveloped properties, or could include spaces such as secondary suites in existing detached homes.
The numbers seemed steep to Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts.
“I honestly don’t know if that’s overreaching, or if anyone else’s eyes popped out at those numbers,” Roberts said, adding that the private sector is often not interested in building affordable housing.
“Remember, the 40 [per year] are not brand new units,” said Lee, stressing that number could include secondary suites and other programming.
County planner Charlsey White said those targets come from the county’s official plan itself.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said he thought the times were changing, and that private builders were becoming more interested in constructing affordable housing.
“The private providers, for the first time I recollect, are actually interested in including that as a component,” Devolin said. “And that’s a huge change in mindset.”
As of December, there was a waiting list of 1,700 to access the 1,142 subsidized rental units that exist within the combined area of the county and the city. The average wait time is three to five years, and according to the city, those joining the wait list today could wait as long as seven. The turnover rate for affordable, subsidized housing has slowed in recent years, due to factors such as the climbing price of homes, rent, and new regulations making it more difficult to get a mortgage. It means people in the subsidized units are staying longer.
“In 2018, only 98 of the 1,142 units vacated,” the plan reads.
While the highest demand is for one-bedroom units, they are in short supply, in both the county and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
The provincial government has made changes to the Housing Services Act aimed at improving access to housing. This has included the removal of an asset limit clause that Lee told councillors was found to have a negative impact on low-income seniors.
“The big one that has been talked about for years and years, is simplifying the rent-geared-to-income rules,” Lee said.
For those living in rent-geared-to-income apartments, the process has included recalculating what that rent is as many as seven times a year, since any time something in the tenant’s life changed – say they went back to school, for instance – the rental rate needed to be recalculated.
“Every time something changed, their rent would change,” Lee said.
Now, there will be one, annual review.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt wondered if it seemed like any of those changes were going to make a real, tangible difference.
“Yes, they’re going to start to do that, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” Lee said.
County residents can apply for a number of funding programs related to housing. A program that assists with renovations has had good uptake, county chief administrative officer Mike Rutter told councillors, adding the county could do better promotion of a secondary suites program.