Affordable housing - the need is great - but real policy direction from council to make it happen isn't on the radar screen yet.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 10th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Affordable housing – an oxymoron perhaps.

In a market where housing prices have risen as much as 20% year over year, the cost of buying a home has skyrocketed – and that impacts directly the cost of rental accommodation.

Rocca partial listing for 2017

Some of the year over year changes were mind boggling – a market run amok.

The Burlington mind set is married to the idea of owning the home you live in – rental accommodation is not for people who are true Burlingtonians – we are all property owners.

Every development that comes before city council has the words “affordable housing” tucked in the application somewhere and the response from the planners pays lip service to the idea.  Members of council will insist that some affordable housing be included in a development.

Carriage Gate agreed to provide the City with a cash contribution of $300,000 prior to condominium registration that was to go towards an affordable account the city appears to have created.

Reserve Properties, the developers promoting a development on the SE corner of Brant and James, have made mention of their plans to contribute something to the need for affordable housing if  their development is approved.

The developers offer up some cash in lieu of actually including affordable units in the condominium.

Where does that cash the developers give the city go?

That isn’t exactly clear. The Gazette isn’t sure if any funds have actually moved from the developer’s bank account into the coffers of the city. Funds from carriage Gate should be in the city bank account by now.

The issue is not about the need for affordable housing – the issue is who is to provide that housing.

Every member of city council knows that housing is a Regional responsibility.

Co-op on Maple close to lakeshore

This high rise close to Lakeshore sets aside 60% of its space for rent geared to income (RGI) tenants. The building is owned and operated by a co-op that works with the Region.

The Region has policies, they have a reasonably clear idea of what is needed. How close they are to that need could be a little tighter.

The Region operates a number of towers that are totally affordable.

They partner with organizations that make space in buildings they own for rent geared to income space.

They maintain the list of who is looking for affordable housing and they determine who can get into a building and when.  The mix of affordable housing is pretty good.

The problem is the need for a shift from the approach that has language which makes affordable housing options sound like or look like welfare options.

Housing has to be looked at differently.

Search options

The Region has a section on its web site where people can search and see what is available. Waiting times to get a residence is measured in years.

The Region is responsible for the social housing needs of all four municipalities: Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills.

Gary CarrDuring the 2010 election Regional Chair came close to losing it when people were going on about the need for affordable housing at the municipal level – “it’s a Regional responsibility” he almost shouted out in an exasperating tone..

There are some very good people at the Regional level administering the policies and the properties.

In the event that Burlington sends the money it gets from developers to the Region (and that point isn’t clear) the Region does not appear to be committed to spending what it gets from Burlington in Burlington.

Instead of trying to outdo each other in how committed they are to affordable housing Burlington city council needs to get its act together and set out what it would like to see done and then take the Burlington plan to Regional council and fight for it at that level.

That however would require a council that is cohesive and can actually work together.
Burlington is now seeing a new crop of candidates that are younger, have good intellectual chops and want to see a change.

ECoB Crowd Feb 22

ECoB – engaged Citizens of Burlington held a meeting for people interested in running for office – the came close to packing the room.

The city is close to have good solid candidates in all six wards and clear choices for the next Mayor.

In the 2014 municipal election Mayor Goldring said he was quite comfortable with seeing every member of the council re-elected.  And they were all re-elected.  They really weren’t any tough races with the possible exception of ward 6 where Blair Lancaster faced nine candidates.

 

There were two problems with the comfort level the Mayor had chosen.

He wasn’t leading council and council wasn’t taking the city anywhere.

That could be about to change.

The next step is for the people who live in the city to think about what they want and then decide who can deliver what they want.

Then get out and actually vote.

We did a piece recently on a woman who taught the city something about milkweed plants and learned that she had run for public office in 2003 – the turnout in that election was 16%.

No wonder we are in a mess.

The complacent people of Burlington did this to themselves.

As for an affordable housing policy that delivers for Burlington – that has to get worked out at the Regional level and Burlington city council members have to make their case at that level.

They’ve known that for the past seven years.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the views, musings, observations and opinions of the Gazette publisher.

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1 comment to Affordable housing – the need is great – but real policy direction from council to make it happen isn’t on the radar screen yet.

  • There is no way to produce affordable housing in Burlington in the current direction. The Feds are importing 350,000 immigrants a year and the GTA is producing something like 44 units for every 55 units demanded.

    At the same time, the direction of hi-rise buildings create space at $600 a square foot not $200 like lower buildings. This is why the areas like Vancouver with all the high buildings still have an affordability crisis.

    Burlington is not large enough to produce any serious deflection of this problem. It’s just that if you pour people into a fixed area you have high demand and a fixed supply. For a while, you can make the units smaller – but the cost of producing those hi-rise units is so high – it doesn’t really out being much cheaper.

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