Centre Wellington to make attainable housing a priority

·3 min read

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Residents are calling for action, a citizen’s advisory group is ready to get working on it and now Centre Wellington council has given the go ahead to begin work on setting attainable housing targets for their community.

A recommendation to support Centre Wellington’s healthy growth advisory committee (HGAC) to establish an attainable housing target and send recommendations on how to increase supply came back to council on Monday.

Last week, a disagreement over pairing this recommendation with a county social housing plan ended a committee of the whole meeting before it even began.

Council approved splitting the recommendation at this meeting and this time got to hear from residents about why this issue matters so much to them.

Fergus resident Teresa Gregg told council her daughter could not find housing within her budget and had to move out of Centre Wellington.

She said the need for more housing options is undeniable and the small town feel will not go away because of new housing options.

“We will maintain our small town feel by creating inclusionary neighbourhoods that nurture a sense of community,” Gregg said, using her own neighbourhood as an example of a mix of different housing types and values.

Sonia Cheng, former owner of the Elora Bread Trading Co. and former operator of the restaurant at the Elora Brewing Co., said a lack of housing options is hurting employers' ability to attract and retain talented staff.

One of her former apprentice cooks was evicted from a downtown Elora apartment and couldn’t find another place to live and those from out of town are put off after a winter of commuting.

“For the tourism, hospitality and arts sector — the core of Elora’s current success and appeal — we will be challenged to attract talented staff,” Cheng said. “We will see a creative drain as artists leave our community.”

Jana Burns, current Wellington Place administrator and former lead of the county’s economic development department, shared stats on the state of housing in Centre Wellington.

She said the average rental price is $2,260 per month and average house price is $819,000 in town. Another troubling development she mentioned is some rental property owners are seeing the rise in housing prices as an opportunity to sell which further decreases the rental supply.

Don Fisher, chair of the HGAC, said the committee has a diverse range of experience and they are eager for some council direction to address this growing issue.

Council was much more supportive this time around but most stressed a need to move quickly.

Coun. Kirk McElwain said although the last meeting ended poorly, they got a better presentation this time around and he was more comfortable supporting the recommendation.

Although he said it was “depressing it has taken this long” and hoped to have reports back in a shorter time frame.

Coun. Neil Dunsmore said a sore spot in the community has been highlighted through these deliberations.

“There isn’t enough housing for people who work in our grocery stores, restaurants, retail industry and serve the people in our community,” Dunsmore said. “This discussion has highlighted the fact that we need to have a huge variety of housing in this community and we need to get on with it.”

Mayor Kelly Linton said he was pleased to see a desire to move quickly to address this and he noted there will not just be one large report to approve but a series of policy and financial recommendations to work on this issue.

Council unanimously approved the recommendation.

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com