Detached homes in Brant County not ‘attainable’ for local residents, report says

Home prices in Brant County would need to be cut in half to be affordable for local residents, according to a recent report presented to council.

“When the average household income in the county can’t afford the average price of a house, we’ve got a problem, and that’s what that report says,” said Burford Coun. David Miller.

The average selling price of a detached home in the area was $946,848 in August, a significant increase from the August 2020 average of $730,939, according to the Brantford Regional Real Estate Association Inc.

And that price was already beyond what is considered “attainable” — $403,944 — based on the 2021 median household income in the county of $106,000, according to the report prepared by Adam Crozier, director of corporate strategy at the County of Brant and acting CEO of Brant Municipal Enterprises and Jessica Kitchen, policy planner for the county.

These numbers are based on Canada’s typical definition of affordability, which states people “should only really be spending 30 per cent of their gross household income securing housing — whether that be ownership or rental,” Kitchen said.

The report — what Crozier described as a “very broad view of the housing market” — confirms what most people already intimately know.

Through email, Crozier and Kitchen said that as one of the smallest municipalities included in the Ontario government’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the county “continues to have a limited ability to absorb the desire for housing without dramatically impacting the community and has not been immune from the cost pressures first experienced within the GTHA core.”

In November 2022, the province passed Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, with an aim of building 1.5 million homes by 2032.

The County of Brant was not one of the 29 identified municipalities with accelerated housing targets, so Crozier said they’re still in the process of figuring out how exactly the bill will impact the county and home affordability.

One thing that is clear is the bill eliminates the ability to use funds collected from development charges toward housing services.

In addition to helping to pay for growth-related infrastructure, like water and wastewater servicing, roads and transit, development charges have also traditionally been used by municipalities for housing services, and Bill 23 now impedes their ability to do this.

“With the elimination of these charges, this may impact current and future affordable housing projects throughout the County of Brant by reducing our ability to collect funds that help construct housing,” the report said.

As of June, more than 1,200 households were on the wait-list for affordable housing in the City of Brantford and Brant County combined.

A report from the City of Brantford in March estimated that the wait time for families was between three and seven years and up to 12 years for applicants without dependants who aren’t seniors.

One project underway is a new build with 49 units deemed affordable at 170 Trillium Way in Paris. Construction began over the summer and is expected to be completed in November 2024.

The $12.5-million build was funded largely by the county, with grants from the federal and provincial governments.

The county could become more reliant on federal and provincial funding, which is a competitive process — especially when going up against larger urban centres like Toronto, without access to funds from development charges.

In an interview with The Spectator, Ian Lee, associate professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, said that while development charges “were put in for good reasons,” the cost was typically passed down to buyers, and in effect made housing more expensive. “So what this is trying to do is roll back some of those charges now,” said Lee.

“Governments have to live within their revenue stream, just like companies, just like universities, just like you and me individually. So, if the policy framework changes, which it is, because of this dire need for more housing for everybody, then this is one of the unfortunate consequences,” said Lee.

Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator