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Letters to the EditorAffordable housing: It’s time to start asking questions

Affordable housing: It’s time to start asking questions

Did you know that the Ontario government has a Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) on Affordable Housing and so does your municipality’s Official Plan?

Did you know the PPS and the Official Plan(s)have certain requirements and targets for new residential developments?

Hurrah you might be thinking, as you are concerned about housing costs, be they ownership or rentals. However, are you sure that the Upper Tier ( Lanark County) or Lower Tier (Beckwith, Carleton Place, Drummond/North Elmsley, Lanark Highlands, Mississippi Mills, Montague, Perth, Smith Falls or Tay Valley) governments are conforming to these requirements?

It’s time to start asking questions!

How do you know if your Lower or Upper Tier municipality is meeting those requirements and target goals?

Well… you don’t. New development proposals are not required to state what their homes will sell for or what their new rental developments will rent for. As residents and council members we need answers in order to make informed decisions.

  How do you know what the actual price of Affordable housing is in your municipality?

Well…you don’t because unfortunately your Municipal Planner probably doesn’t know either. When your Municipal Planner prepares a report on any new residential development proposal the developer and the Municipal Planner are not obligated to provide data on how the proposal will meet the municipal Affordable target goals. Without data you cannot know if a development will meet your municipalities target goals and/or if it’s fulfilling the PPS Affordable directives.

What does the PPS say about Affordable Housing?

The PPS requires municipalities to have Affordable Housing Policies in their Official Plans. Under section 1.4 subsection 1.4.3:

(Municipal) Planning authorities shall provide for an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market-based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area by:

  1. a) establishing and implementing minimum targets for the provision of housing which is affordable to low and moderate income households and which aligns with applicable housing and homelessness plans. However, where planning is conducted by an upper-tier municipality, the upper-tier municipality in consultation with the lower-tier municipalities may identify a higher target(s) which shall represent the minimum target(s) for these lower-tier municipalities;

Your Lower Tier municipality probably has an Affordable Housing policy in their Official Plan and even a specified target goal, along with a definition of Affordable.

Definitions: The following definitions were taken directly from the PPS 2020. They are not easily understood, all the more reason it’s time to ask.

In the PPS Affordable is for:

  1. a) ownership,

the least expensive of:

  1. housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area;
  3. b) rentals,

the least expensive for

  1. a unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. a unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area.Low and moderate income households means:

For ownership;

households with incomes in the lowest 60 percent of the income distribution for the regional market area; or

For rentals,

households with incomes in the lowest 60 percent of the income distribution for renter households for the regional market area. (PPS 2020)

Conclusion:

So according to the PPS, Upper and Lower Tier governments have a vital role in ensuring they are fully engaged in providing Affordable housing. Ask the council and staff of your municipality how many of the new residential builds in your community are Affordable. If they respond that they are providing Affordable housing by providing a variety of types and densities it does not necessarily mean that the housing will be Affordable for low and moderate income households.

Just because you build more of something won’t magically make present or future homes Affordable for households that need them. Some day you or a family member might be the one that needs it.  With the Provincial and Municipal elections coming up let’s all start asking questions, be curious, be informed and be involved!

Lanark County Community Action Network:

Community Action Network | The Table Community Food Centre (thetablecfc.org)

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