Lack of affordable housing pushing young people out of Centre Wellington

·3 min read

​Despite wanting to stay, young people in Centre Wellington are considering moving out of the township due to the lack of available affordable housing.

“I’ve been looking for the last year and a half for a rental unit around Centre Wellington for myself, but with the pandemic, the market has just progressively been worse and worse,” said 30-year-old Elora resident, Sarah Gregg.

Gregg, who has been living with her parents in Elora, noted that she wants to stay in Elora or Fergus but cannot find any rental units as inventory was sparse and expensive.

Due to this, Gregg was forced to look outside of the township, in places such as Guelph, Cambridge, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Orangeville.

The same thing is happening to Melanie Hatch, a 22-year-old University of Guelph student, who is currently living with her parents in Fergus.

“I’ve been looking around Fergus and Guelph and there’s really no affordable options for a student. It’s either you pay $2,500 for a three-bedroom house, or you have no other option. I’m just one person who’s also a student; I don’t have that kind of money,” said Hatch.

According to Maureen Farquharson, a broker with Remax Real Estate Centre in Fergus, the average rental unit cost in 2021 in the township is $1,500 for an apartment unit, and $1,900 for a condo unit; the average house sale cost in the township in 2021 is $1.10 million.

“Five years ago, the average rental cost for a condo unit was $1,200, and for an apartment unit, it was $900,” said Farquharson.

“For the average house sale cost five years ago, it was $484,000. It has significantly doubled.”

Farquharson noted that the average price cost for rental units has increased due to the lack of apartment buildings in the township, and the lack of available land that developers can buy and use in order to build one.

Seniors wanting to downsize has also been a huge factor.

“Seniors are selling their houses that are worth millions, and then taking a lot of the available rental units, resulting in many young people being left behind,” said Farquharson.

“I’m not saying it’s the seniors fault; I’m saying we need more apartment buildings in the township.”

Centre Wellington currently has a healthy growth committee that focuses on making a positive difference when it comes to attainable housing, in particular toward the council's strategic direction.

On Oct. 25th’s council meeting, council directed staff and the committee to continue working to help reduce barriers with a focus on increasing the supply of attainable housing by: reviewing the current highway commercial zoning regulations; and exploring a Community Planning Permit System (CPPS).

CPPS, formerly known as the Development Permit System, is a land use planning tool that municipalities can use when planning for the future of their communities.

Mayor Kelly Linton explained that the committee and the township have brought in developers and builders that looked at some of the areas in the township where they can build apartment buildings.

“These developers and builders have let us know that the process of building apartment buildings is too onerous due to the barriers here,” said Linton.

“The support it needs in the differing neighborhoods in the township is not there because a lot of residents do not want apartment buildings in their neighborhoods. They only want to see single family dwellings and that’s making it difficult to build in a lot of our areas. So, that part has to change in our mentality.”

Linton added that some of the areas the township has are zoned commercial. The advisory committee took a look at some of the commercial strips to see if there’s an opportunity to add some rental units within that zoning.

“That should open up some opportunities for multi-level rental accommodations in Centre Wellington,” he said. “I think that’s critical.”

Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com

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