PERTH COUNTY – A motion was passed during the Nov. 4 meeting of county council supporting the continuing mandate of the Committee on Affordable and Attainable Housing.
On Nov. 30, 2020, the committee was established to learn about housing issues in Perth County and provide council with a work plan that would guide the next steps to deal with housing concerns.
Over the past year, presentations have been received from the City of Stratford Social Services Department, Huron Perth Realtors Association, North Perth Mayoral Task Force on Affordable Housing, Grey County, Perth County Economic Development & Tourism and the Perth County Planning and Development Division.
With this information in hand, a work plan was developed that seeks to keep the issue of affordable and attainable housing as a priority for Perth County while calling for additional support resources.
“The committee has been busy since its inception… doing some education, receiving information from outside sources… to learn as best it could about the issues of affordable and attainable housing in the region,” said Committee Chair Ryan Erb. “The committee has discussed thoroughly this particular work plan and has consulted thoroughly with staff from the county and social services.”
He pointed out to council that under the education section of the work plan there are actions to gather information and disseminate it to the private sector, encouraging them to build affordable housing.
“There is also a section that takes action around a campaign that can help to reduce the stigma around affordable housing,” said Erb. “It could be something like a Yes in My Backyard campaign and there are other efforts underway that this group could join.”
While developing the work plan, there was discussion about challenges that municipal councils have faced around policy and it was suggested that the committee works with a consultant to do a deeper dive into those issues and provide guidance.
Erb noted that earlier in the council meeting the new county Official Plan was discussed.
“I just wanted to reiterate that this committee is committed to being a part of the process,” he said. “We know that this is an opportunity to promote the mandate of affordable and attainable housing and would certainly want the opportunity as part of that process which the planning staff have already agreed to.”
In the development section of the work plan, the committee mentions supporting the community improvement plans that are already underway.
“We’re interested to see how we can support Economic Development and Tourism as they move some of this forward and give feedback to them,” said Erb.
Throughout the plan, it is suggested that the county will need to hire a full-time equivalent employee.
“It was discussed thoroughly with staff that moving this particular project forward will require additional investment,” he said. “Staff simply do not have enough time to move all of the projects in this plan within their current mandate… so it is the understanding of the committee that we need to refer this back to staff for some consideration about the cost associated with putting together a plan like this.”
Coun. Robert Wilhelm congratulated Erb on the work the committee has been doing.
“I think when we started we didn’t know where we were going to go or how we were going to get there,” he said.
Wilhelm said working on affordable and attainable housing requires a lot of input from the lower tiers along with involvement from social services.
“I understand that North Perth has put something together with social services towards this end and I congratulate you on moving forward with that,” he said. “I like to think that this committee was part of the inspiration to get this going. So I congratulate you and good luck on that.”
Wilhelm suggested that due to the need for financial input from the county, this report should be referred to budget discussions and Warden Jim Aitcheson amended the motion to include that direction.
Coun. Todd Kasenberg pointed out that the report being discussed is an interim report and there would be a report coming to decide whether the committee would be viable in the future.
“I think that seeing the work plan and having participated richly in the discussions and collaboration with my colleagues here on county council… that we may need to amend this motion as well to indicate that county council supports the continuance of the work of this committee,” he said.
The motion was amended to include a recommendation that the committee continues with its mandate.
The motion passed but Coun. Hugh McDermid, Coun. Daryl Herlick and Wilhelm voted against it.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner