The Joint Services Committee of Leeds and Grenville has decided to allocate $282,561 to a new affordable housing project in North Grenville. The funding is part of phase two of Ontario Government’s Social Services Relief Fund, designed to support affordable housing solutions in the province’s municipalities.
The Joint Services Committee is comprised of all members of Counties Council, five members from the City of Brockville represented by the mayor, and the mayors of Gananoque and Prescott. It is responsible for determining service levels, policy and budgets relating to the provision of Ontario Works, social housing, land ambulance, and the Provincial Offences Act administration.
At their meeting on February 10, members voted unanimously to allocate the funding to a private development project in Kemptville that would see the creation of eight two-bedroom rental units in the downtown core. As part of the agreement, the developer has committed to designating two of the units as affordable housing for a period of at least 20 years.
Mayor Nancy Peckford says the municipality was able to facilitate the partnership due to the ongoing commitment they have for discussing affordable housing with all developers looking to build or renovate in the municipality. This particular developer was already looking into re-zoning the property in downtown Kemptville from commercial to residential when the opportunity for funding arose from the County. “To the County’s credit, by virtue of my significant concern about a lack of rental here, they came to us first,” Mayor Peckford says. “I recognize that they did that out of respect for the advocacy that myself and council and the [Mayoral Task Force on Affordable Housing] has undertaken.”
The funding is meant to incentivize the developer to undertake the project, which will not only add affordable housing units in the municipality, but also increase the rental market in North Grenville which is severely stressed. The need for rental units has only increased with the current housing boom in the municipality, as many rental property owners have decided to take advantage of sky-high market prices to sell their properties.
“We have a crisis in this community where, in fact, I get calls every week from people saying - I’m getting evicted, I don’t know where to go. These are families, these are seniors, these are people who, in the face of an increasing shortage of rental stock here, are being forced to relocate outside of the community.”
Mayor Peckford believes it is imperative for the municipality to work with local developers to increase affordable housing as, unlike many other communities, North Grenville doesn’t have many not-for-profit organizations that arefocused on providing affordable places for people to live. That being said, the mayor did indicate that they are currently working closely with Habitat for Humanity on the creation of a new affordable housing project in the municipality.
According to the report presented to the Joint Services Committee, the affordable housing units will be rented at 80% of fair market rent. Although the County has indicated that fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit is $1,100 a month, the rental market in North Grenville is sitting at a few hundred dollars more than that. While the Municipality is still working on figuring out what the true fair market rent price is in North Grenville, Mayor Peckford says the most important thing to note is that these units will be affordable for people in need in the community. “Whatever the math on the market rent is, we still have to ensure that if units are designated as affordable, they are truly affordable,” she says. “They are truly accessible to people who otherwise don’t have options.”
While this funding is great news for the municipality, the mayor is always looking for more money that might be coming through the pipelines from the federal and provincial governments. “I think we are defining the character of this community for the next 25 years, and we would be letting our own residents down right now if we did not fight for every dollar. That’s my job. My job is to fight for every dollar. My job is to go to the Counties and, when there is opportunity, to make sure that we leverage that.”
As per the stipulations of the funding, the new units in downtown Kemptville will be ready to be occupied by the end of the year. The affordable units will be rented based on need and information provided by the County. As the contract is still being finalized, Mayor Peckford could not reveal the name of the developer, however she said they are a respected part of the business community. “This is a great news story, because the money was going to go somewhere. And in this case, it’s coming to North Grenville.”
Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times