Affordable housing task force putters along with its mandate

·3 min read

A full zoning bylaw change to accommodate and encourage more affordable housing in town may not be the quickest road to the goal.

Midland's affordable housing task force arrived at this conclusion at its recent meeting.

The group was looking at the overall official plan and zoning bylaw review process in hopes it would provide opportunities to attract more developers by easing regulations and creating a more inviting environment.

"The reality is a lot of our housing development is going to come from other sources than ourselves," said Gord McKay, chair of the committee. "We have to prepare the landscape, the regulation and planning mechanisms, so they can reasonably go forward with affordable housing."

The document prepared by the town's former planner identifies some areas where changes could be made, including the current planning and zoning of the Town of Midland.

But it's not easy to go through a zoning bylaw review, acknowledged McKay, who asked Mayor Stewart Strathearn where the town was in the process.

"We're currently seriously constrained in the planning area, and apparently, it's going to be exacerbated shortly," said Strathearn. "Friday, when we have the HR committee review as to what the immediate future looks like in terms of resources we can access to move things that need immediate attention."

The retention of the consultant to do the review is going to be contingent upon putting a planning resource in plan to manage it," he added.

In addition, Strathearn said, the county is moving into its municipal comprehensive review.

"There's a lot happening right now," he said, adding he agreed with committee member Ted Phelps, who had suggested the committee would be better off with a site-specific zoning, rather than relying on a comprehensive zoning review.

"We've identified two properties which will require some sort of zoning change," said Strathearn. "We should focus on those and we can move that ball down the court and in the workshops and other conversations put some emphasis on particular things. We can expand the conversation once we've gotten council's buy-in on some of the other stuff."

McKay said a couple ideas that could be included in the new zoning bylaw, whenever that comes forward, may help promote more affordable housing in the area.

"The one that's always intrigued me the most is shared accommodation housing," he said. "While we're permitted, we don't encourage it in any fashion. If any group in the public is going to pick up and do something in the affordable housing area, that's probably the mechanism they will employ.

"Secondary units is another one that's reasonably well-established," added McKay.

Strathearn had a word of caution around it all.

"We're realizing that there are inconsistencies at the provincial level with respect to employment lands, rural designation and natural heritage," he said. "There are fundamental conflicts between the three that are really going to contain primary settlement areas to grow and retain their character. We're examining that through the municipal comprehensive review at county."

The committee will also be launching a communications campaign to reach out to the community to invite feedback around housing and what the town can do to improve affordable housing in the area.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,