North Grenville Housing Task Force could inspire other Communities

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A review of the recommendations that came out of the 2019 Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing in North Grenville could inform the ongoing effort to tackle housing issues in North Dundas.

The same issues that prompted the Mayor and Council of North Grenville to undertake an examination of the state of affordable housing in their municipality, currently exist in North Dundas. Developers are flocking to North Dundas, especially since the onset of the pandemic, with people wanting to live outside the bigger cities. North Dundas is facing unprecedented demands for development. Land, house, and rent prices have skyrocketed. Going forward, we need to find some way to balance demands for larger, more expensive housing for people coming from the bigger cities, with enough options to accommodate the rest of the people including efforts to add to social housing. Currently, social housing developments are concentrated in the larger urban areas, so most often, if people in North Dundas or other parts of the United Counties of SD&G require social housing, they need to go to Cornwall.

Municipalities have the ability to create an environment that encourages developers to build more affordable options to meet the current demand in the community for affordable housing.

Shortly after being elected in the fall of 2018, the Mayor and Council of North Grenville set up a Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing. The mandate of the task force was to examine the current state of affordable housing in the Municipality of North Grenville, and make recommendations for strategies and opportunities to expand access for residents, including recommendations on how to increase access to non-profit and subsidized housing, affordable rental housing, and affordable home ownership.

The Final Report from March 2020 makes 18 recommendations. In January 2019, Council appointed nine members to the Task Force. A Community Advisory Group of an additional seven community volunteers, and three working groups was established to help the Task Force achieve their mandate. The Task force met each month. They listened to seventeen delegations from various experts in the areas of government policy and programs, affordable housing projects, and people in need of housing. An interim report was presented in October 2019. All meetings were open to the public.

The 35 page report is available on the North Grenville Website. The Task Force was looking for concrete actions that could be taken. They reviewed the impediments to affordability, looking at how policy and practice could change to support smaller, more affordable options. They sought to uncover what systemic impediments could be tackled.

Recommendations were made to ensure developers could deliver on a vision to meet community needs. In North Grenville, new construction in subdivisions must have 25% of housing as affordable. The Task Force came up with a definition of affordable based on the 2014 Ontario Provincial Policy Statement. Possible surplus land was identified, existing public buildings were inventoried.

Zoning changes were recommended to allow for more townhomes, duplexes, and in-suite units. Municipalities are able to waive part of the development fees for affordable units, and some charges for developing in-suite units. Official Plan, and Zoning By-Law amendments regarding secondary dwelling units were drafted. This was seen as the single most effective means to increase the number of affordable rental units. It can increase extended family accommodations, can provide additional income to a homeowner, and maximizes density and uses infrastructure efficiently. Zoning changes were undertaken to reduce the required dwelling size, allowing for smaller units or homes. The report sets out a clear map on how to address community housing needs in North Grenville and could be a helpful resource for development in North Dundas.

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