There is a dearth of affordable housing in both North Dundas and North Grenville. A few months into the pandemic, I began to notice a lot more posts on social media asking if anyone knew of an apartment or house for rent in the area. People would share information about where they had seen a “House for Rent” sign while they were out for a walk, or share the name of a friend who knew about a vacant apartment. More and more people were looking for housing, and there was very little available.
House prices have increased alarmingly everywhere, including in North Dundas and North Grenville. Interest rates are low, and have been for a long time. The pandemic has increased the gap between those who have, and those who have not. Many jobs were lost due to Covid-19. Many of those job losses were in the service industry, and many were women, often with children. The people with full-time, permanent, salaried jobs who have kept their jobs through the pandemic, have fueled a housing demand. People who could work remotely began to look at homes outside the city. This has happened all over the country. The population of our area has increased but added stress on the need for housing.
The number of apartments and houses available for rent in our area have declined sharply. There are more people looking for accommodation, but there are also fewer places for rent. With skyrocketing housing prices, some landlords have sold to take advantage of record high prices. Buyers aren’t renting the properties out. They often want to live there themselves. There are also people taking advantage of the housing market to purchase houses in need of repair, and either flipping them for sale, or renovating them and renting them out at a much higher rate. In all these instances, tenants are losing their housing. There are many legal ways to buy a house with a couple of apartments in it, remove the tenants in order to renovate it, then sell it or rent it out.
I asked people who were experiencing the housing shortage to message or email me. I was overwhelmed by the responses. Experiences run the gamut, but overwhelmingly I heard that there is a shortage of housing, especially affordable housing. Landlords are inundated with applications if they do have a place for rent. Owners who may be on a fixed income are worried that property taxes will go up higher than they can afford because of increased property values. When accommodations are available, rent is too high for many. Owning a home is no longer even a dream for many. People being given 60 days notice to move after being in the area for the majority of their lives, with nowhere to go. Parents and children staying with friends or family, with no end in sight. Parents with precarious housing worry about social service agencies getting involved, and judging them as parents. There are few options for smaller families, groups, or individuals. Houses are overwhelmingly designed with an outdated idea of a nuclear family in mind. A four bedroom house is simply too-much house for a single parent and a child. We need to explore smaller houses. If someone needs social housing, they are most often forced to leave their community, go to Cornwall from North Dundas, or Brockville from North Grenville. Our housing should reflect our society, providing something for everyone.
North Grenville Mayor and Council set up a Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing in January 2019 to examine the issue of affordable housing in North Grenville and make recommendations for strategies and opportunities to expand access for residents. The final report of the Task Force was delivered to Council in March of 2020 and contained 18 recommendations, including the need to look at municipal lands that could be “surplused” for affordable housing; and creating an affordable housing advisory committee to assist Council with affordable housing related matters
In North Dundas, there is a community supported Housing Initiative, headed by three local women: Nanda Wubs, Cathy Ashby from House of Lazarus, and Rebecca Van Noppen from More Than Enough. This community driven initiative could be a signal to the Township of North Dundas that it needs to start a discussion on affordable housing. We need something similar to the North Grenville Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing in North Dundas. We need public, secular initiatives.