affordable housing

Hub Staff

In March of 2019, the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre hosted a talk on the labour shortage in Bruce County. Several local business owners addressed the lack of affordable housing as a contributing factor to the problem. In the December 9 Committee of Whole meeting in Saugeen Shores, the topic of affordable housing surfaced again in a presentation from the Bruce County Housing Services Manager Tania Dickson and the Bruce County Director of Human Services Christine MacDonald.

Dickson reviewed a number of housing statistics in Saugeen Shores and the trends they’ve seen in the last five years. Dickson reported a total of 146 affordable units in Saugeen Shores owned and operated by Bruce County Housing Services. With 347 applicants waiting for housing in Saugeen Shores, a declining vacancy rate and a climbing waitlist, the County sees this as a pressing issue and one that needs to be addressed.

Dickson indicated a healthy vacancy rate of 3% and said the current vacancy rate in Saugeen Shores sits at 1.4%. The waitlist in Saugeen Shores has risen by 73% since 2015 and accounts for 61% of the overall waitlist in Bruce County. Dickson added that the average house cost in Bruce County is $351,681 of which, according to census data, can only be afforded by 20% of the population.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, the team has come up with an action plan that begins with increasing the affordable housing stock in the region of Bruce County. The Housing Services Manager mentioned a 35 unit build currently taking place in Kincardine and said that Bruce County will continue their commitment to working with not-for-profit organizations, county planners and municipalities to promote affordable housing across the region.

Another area Dickson recognized in her presentation was a lack of rural transportation throughout Bruce County. She acknowledged that this is outside of their team’s scope but deemed it an important contributing factor to the housing issues faced in the county's municipalities and thus will work with community partners and private sectors to improve rural transportation.

Their research also suggested a more indepth look at youth and Indigenous needs is required. The team is aiming to have a research project in place for 2021 to focus on these groups.

Bruce County Housing Services will also work toward upgrading and implementing a coordinated system to eliminate confusion for applicants and developers.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau recognized the urgency for affordable housing and the town’s readiness to deploy resources and partner with Bruce County to deal with the issues of homelessness and poverty in the community. Charbonneau noted that Saugeen Shores is on the rise and developers are eager to build in the area, offering them some leverage when working on new developments.

In a presentation, Planner for the Town of Saugeen Shores Tessa Fortier discussed a new subdivision development plan for a three hectare area adjacent the Southampton Golf and Country Club. A 39-townhouse subdivision has been proposed for the development. Fortier also made mention the subject of affordable housing and informed that both Bruce County and The Town of Saugeen Shores have a target for 30% of new development in Bruce County be offered to the 60th percentile of household incomes.

“I would note that these are targets, it is not policy,” clarified Fortier. “It’s not expected that every development will meet that, it’s kind of something to strive for in an overall consideration of development for the Town of Saugeen Shores.”

The applicant is proposing to build eight units with a smaller footprint, which would account for 20% of the development. These units would be sold at $350,000 which still lies above the affordability for the 60th percentile household income of $329,900. The applicant noted the 1,600 square feet of living space in these units is enough to accommodate a family rather than one to two habitants.

The Planning staff has recommended adding a condition in the draft approval that requires six dwellings in the development to follow the definition of affordable housing as laid out in the Saugeen Shores Official Plan. This would set each of these six affordable housing units to $317,000 or 10% below the average purchase price of a resale unit in Bruce County.

Councillor Matt Carr weighed in. “I’m having a hard time understanding how we can start enforcing developers to stick to the guidelines we’re trying to set out, if we need to make this a policy or not,” said Carr.

Fortier reiterated that the 30% affordable housing is an objective and there are no current policies in place that require developers to meet this goal. The Planner further explained that the 30% target is an overall goal for Town of Saugeen Shores and doesn't necessarily have to exist in every subdivision. Under the Town’s Housing Policies, it states that 30% of new developments will be medium to high density, which Fortier believed to be part of achieving this affordable housing objective.

“The previous subdivision that was passed by this council earlier this year, along Spence Street, saw nearly 80% of their units meeting that affordable threshold,” reported Fortier. "So we are well on our way this year to meeting that 30% through affordable housing.

"When we think of that 30% it really is that breakdown of all the development happening in Saugeen Shores” added Fortier.