NORTH PERTH – At its first council meeting of 2022, CAO Kriss Snell presented North Perth council with a report that was requested by Coun. Allan Rothwell in December to outline the municipality’s actions on affordable housing, and potential actions within the community to stimulate affordable housing.
“We certainly have the actions regarding development charges for more affordable builds both in single-family detached and multis,” said Snell. “The community hub project is still moving forward and will hopefully include a housing component. Right now we’re expecting 40 units could be created as part of the project.”
According to the report, at this time there have been no proposed rental prices of these potential housing units.
“We have the Stratford Perth Community Safety and Well-Being plan that does make adequate, attainable and affordable housing a priority and one of its goals,” said Snell.
The plan includes an objective to work with the Coordinated Access System Leadership Group (CASLG) and other government and private sector partners to support the strategic objectives identified in the updated Housing and Homelessness Plan for Stratford, Perth County and St. Marys (2020-2024): ending homelessness, creating attainable housing options, sustaining community housing, and addressing a diversity of needs.
Snell also said recommendations have come forward from the Mayor’s Task Force on affordable and attainable housing. He mentioned that there is a focus on bringing North Perth staff to its full complement and then work will be done to present a longer-term project around ways the municipality can have more affordable housing built.
“I think we are all feeling the importance of this issue in our community and it is good to see accomplishments have been made to date, “ said Mayor Todd Kasenberg. “More needs to happen... We need lots of willing partners and so I think that’s part of the framework that lies ahead.”
He advised council that at the county level, changes to the Official Plan are expected to happen which should make it easier for some conversions of structures – such as a garage into an apartment – to be approved.
“I’ve asked for county council to initiate an Official Plan amendment to make a change there and to essentially remove that impediment for all comers moving forward,” he said. “It is, as I checked in with Manager of Planning (Sally) McMullen at the county, making its way towards us. We should see some action of that in the very near future.”
Rothwell reiterated the importance of this affordable housing issue.
“I think it not only affects our community, those that are living here but also those that are working in the community that cannot find housing,” he said. “I would like to see incremental changes happen and I think we need to turn to our community so that members of the public that do own property that perhaps do have an extra room or could do conversions, that are encouraged to do so and given that guidance and direction to do so.”
Rothwell said there were short-term steps that could be undertaken and he encouraged staff to look at the recommendations that came out from the Mayor’s Task Force on affordable housing and attainable housing.
“Put into action some of those recommendations as quickly as possible,” he said. “These are not policy changes. These are simply taking a look at what some of our surrounding communities are trying to encourage and support… These are crucial issues that should happen sooner rather than later. I do realize CAO Snell said in the report that we are looking for not just the short term but the long term as well, clearly this is a multi-prong effort; I support that but I would like to see us have an action where we do in fact call within our community for help and support to create as many opportunities as soon as possible.”
Kasenberg said that the public call is a conversation he has had privately with Rothwell and he said it’s good to have it surface publicly.
“I do intend and have had conversations with the CAO about how we can turn our attention to the opportunity that is before us with regards to current built structures and flexible types of housing that can be incorporated in the short term because short term is becoming increasingly urgent,” he said. “So I provide that I truly agree with your comments and thank you for them but I do want to add that the CAO’s comments about staffing are a significant challenge at this point to try to sort of rally the wagons around the issue, but we will get there in the near future because we must get there in the very near future.”
Coun. Julie Behrns said she realized they are looking for both short term and long-term fixes and that there are a huge number of ideas.
“I think it was Coun. (Matt) Richardson some time ago mentioned about a subdivision of tiny homes,” she said. “I see that is being done for other purposes in other parts of the country right now. I believe the current one is for veterans.”
Behrns emphasized the importance of county council members raising some of these ideas to the county planning department and possibly getting some of the creative ideas into affordable housing policy.
“I don’t know if Sean (Yilmaz), our North Perth planner needs ideas or something to work with,” she said. “It could be just a session we could have to think of ideas but I think there’s a lot of them out there that people are utilizing all across Ontario, and if they can do it in other parts of Ontario, we can do it here.”
Kasenberg said one of the plans for moving forward is a public consultation to rally the community.
“It’s a very well made point,” he said. “We certainly can do this. It’s going to take a little bit of staff time and work and – the bottleneck that tends to happen at this point is that staff is spread thin and COVID isn’t helping that much at this point.”
Kasenberg also said that he and Snell have been having conversations with potential developers about alternative housing forms in North Perth.
“I’m trying to sound them out on their interest and willingness and a couple of new ideas coming to the table,” he said.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner