Housing and homelessness in Peterborough County — and what to do about it — were the main topics of discussion following a presentation on the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan to North Kawartha Township council Thursday.
“We all recognize how important it is. We’re all seeing it and even dealing with it directly or indirectly. It is a growing issue and a growing concern,” said Mayor Carolyn Amyotte.
Members of the plan’s advisory committee have been visiting township councils to present the plan and seek their endorsement.
Coun. Jim O’Shea asked the presenters, “how are you planning to improve the housing throughout the county?”
“It will be on the shoulders of those who are working on it now in those agencies,” said Chris Kalawec, community development program manager for the city of Peterborough and co-chair of the plan’s advisory committee.
“Housing is probably one of the most challenging of all (the five priorities of the project), given the time it takes to acquire new housing or to build new housing,” he said.
“There certainly is progress being made,” he continued. “There are new initiatives in the works right now to increase the stock. Rental housing in rural areas is just an ongoing challenge.”
Alana Solman, chief administrative for North Kawartha Township and co-chair of the CSWP plan advisory committee told council, “there’s a lot of small things that can be done.”
For example, the plan recommends allowing secondary rental units which North Kawartha Township already allows, but not all townships do, she said.
Another idea is to reduce the size of dwelling required when building.
North Kawartha allows a 484-square-foot dwelling size, explained Solman, but other townships have much larger dwelling size requirements.
“So someone might be able to afford to build a small house and then eventually enlarge that house over the years, but they can’t afford to build a 1,000-square foot-house at the cost of building today,” she said.
Municipalities can look at their bylaws when they are strategic planning and permit these options, she added.
“That’s one way, in the rural area, we can look at it.”
Amyotte said any local response needs support from the province and she has been constantly “nattering” and lobbying it on a number of different issues, “because there’s only so much we can do.”
“We need to have that provincial support,” she said, “either with funding or through making legislative or regulatory changes that will enable municipalities like us to do some things to address housing and maybe speed the process up, eliminate some of that red tape. That’s an ongoing battle, for sure.”
In 2019 the province required every municipality to adopt a CSWP to tackle social and economic issues. Peterborough county and city and five of the county’s townships joined forces to develop one.
Cavan Monaghan, Asphodel-Norwood and Otonabee-South Monaghan townships have opted to have their own collaborative plan.
In the city-county plan five areas were identified as priorities: housing and homelessness, poverty and income security, health care and mental health, substance use and addictions and transportation and connectivity.
Council was told the next steps for the plan will be to work with community partners to develop an implementation strategy for each area of concern.
North Kawartha council unanimously endorsed the plan at its meeting.
Insp. Chris Galeazza of the OPP and a member of the plan’s advisory committee and Lauren Hunter, a consultant with Arising Collective, were also part of the presentation.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner