by Deron Johnston
Some people are probably wondering why the new mayor was so quick to create a Task Force On Affordable Housing. There are a number of important reasons why it was a great idea, and there should be a sense of urgency behind all of them, because of the numerous potential positive financial, health and social outcomes. For this discussion, we’re going to focus on the current state of just one part of affordable housing in North Grenville.
So, let’s start at the beginning. According to Wikipedia, “Affordable housing is housing which is deemed affordable to those with a median household income, or below, as rated by the national government or a local government by a recognized housing affordability index”. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) sets the standard for housing affordability and states that housing should cost no more than 30% of total household income.
For our purposes, we’re going to look at the component of affordable housing called social housing. This is the type of housing that most people are thinking of when they think of affordable housing. According to the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG) 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, completed back in 2014, social housing is defined as “… rental housing developed with the assistance of government subsidies for people with low-to-moderate incomes, including families, seniors, or people with special needs, who can live, with supports, in the community”.
UCLG is responsible for the administration and oversight of social housing for North Grenville. However, when you look at the numbers, there’s a serious problem of inequality for North Grenville. Over the past five years, North Grenville has seen a total increase of only four units of social housing, but increased in population by a projected 1,350 people (based on an average per year gain taken from Census data between the 2011 to 2016 Census).
Our population, as of the 2016 Census, was 16,451 (and is now probably in the neighbourhood of 17,000). North Grenville’s supply of UCLG-owned social housing units sits at 38 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit. By comparison, Prescott (2016 population of 3,965) has 153 total units ranging in size from bachelor to four bedroom. Gananoque (2016 population of 5,159) has 50 one-bedroom units, and Merrickville Wolford (2016 population of 3,067) has 40 one-bedroom units.
During the municipal election campaign, one resident shared that she has been on the waiting list for social housing in Kemptville for four years. This anecdote further accentuates the need in North Grenville and, with only four units added over the past five years by UCLG, it is time to do what we can to solve this problem. As our population continues to grow, as the prices of property and homes continue to rise, as our population continues to age (our average age is 4.3 years older than the provincial average), the need becomes more and more urgent with each passing year.