Large homes prompt big questions at TBM council table

·2 min read

The Town of The Blue Mountains council was wrestling with a giant question, or rather a question about giant homes at its most recent meeting.

Some members of council argued for a town policy that would actively discourage the construction of larger homes in the community.

The discussion originated on Aug. 29 when Mayor Alar Soever asked staff to review two pieces of correspondence the town received about official plan changes in the Municipality of Meaford and the County of Simcoe. Soever wanted to be sure the town’s policies aligned with neighbouring communities on the matter of affordable and attainable housing.

The resolution on the matter included a clause to look at how the town can discourage the construction of expensive, larger homes that are not affordable for many families.

“We can’t keep building large single-family homes. Young families won’t be able to move here and the community will suffer,” said Soever, who said the town’s policies should be in step with its neighbours to better handle the affordable/attainable housing issue as a region.

Coun. Rob Sampson said the entire region has to take a hard look at larger homes.

“We don’t need any more $1.5 million homes. Frankly, there are enough,” said Sampson. “We need a policy that discourages larger homes, literally and actually discourages the construction of larger homes.”

Coun. Bill Abotts agreed and said when he looks out his front window, he sees four large homes being built on lots that used to be the location of smaller, family-sized houses.

“There needs to be some fixer uppers, rather than tear them down,” said Abotts.

Both CAO Shawn Everitt and Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon warned council about going too far with policy making on this front.

“I think we want to be cautious when we talk about larger homes. What if that larger home has multiple units in it?” said Everitt. “At the end of the day, what we’re talking about is creating a stock of affordable homes.”

Bordignon warned council that attempts to forbid certain kinds of housing could have unintended consequences.

“The only reason they can afford to build attainable units is because they are building the other (larger homes). That’s a very dangerous door we just opened. How is a developer going to be able to build attainable units-only, without the others?" said Bordignon.

The deputy mayor suggested a more appropriate approach would be to set targets for a certain percentage of all developments to have attainable/affordable units and to work with neighbouring municipalities to have similar policies in place.

When it came time to vote, the motion to have staff explore options for discouraging construction of large homes passed 5-1 with Bordignon opposed and Coun. Jim Uram absent.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca