Shelby White, MCIP, RPP Planner Development Services 705-739-4220 x4517
The City's 10-year Affordable Housing Strategy (AHS) aims to encourage, stimulate and increase the supply and range of affordable housing options to meet the needs of our residents, at all income levels and stages of life.
The City published the AHS in 2015 to address the issue of housing and homelessness within Barrie. The strategy examined the 2013 housing situation in Barrie and recommended a series of action items.
The City’s goal is to create 840 affordable units by 2024. The AHS recommends a variety of action items including short-, mid- and long-term items. The strategy recommends revisions to the Official Plan including:
The City recognizes there is a shortage of affordable housing, in particular affordable rental housing. Barrie is not alone in this, and the City is working on several initiatives to address this problem.
The City is working to open up the Second Suites policy and laws to allow existing property owners to register secondary rental units more quickly and easily. This assists owners in renting to younger or ageing family members, and allows ownership to be more affordable as rental income can go towards the costs of ownership.
This initiative also results in an increased supply of housing which increases the vacancy rate and results in lower rental costs (supply goes up, demand goes down). Simcoe County is helping with this initiative by offering grants to eligible property owners encouraging them to add second suites to their properties. The City has improved this process by having fewer zoning requirements and has streamlined the process to create second suites.
The City offers grants to encourage redevelopment projects that provide multi-unit rental apartment buildings. The grants apply to apartments that are for rent at or below average market rates. The City has not received any applications for these projects however we anticipate several applications will be made as many new development applications are received.
One of the Official Plan’s goals is to have at least 10% of all new residential development be affordable housing. We require developers to submit a report showing how this is addressed in their developments and continually look at ways to improve implementation of this policy.
When a development proposes greater density or height than permitted the City by-laws, the City has policies that allow Planning Services to ask for community benefits. One of these benefits requires allocation of units or funds for affordable housing, allowing for funds to be used for affordable housing.
The City has been an early leader in progressively reducing the tax ratio for multi-residential units by approximately 25% annually. This is a significant tax-based support that encourages residential rentals in Barrie and is now being looked at as a good policy to implement throughout Ontario.
The City created a Built Form Task Force to continually look into new ways in which more affordable housing can be provided in Barrie. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations are under review, one of which recommends creating City standards that reduces development costs. The savings will be used for developing affordable housing.
Some of the above initiatives will not be immediately felt as it takes some time for the effects of changes to be realized.
Affordable housing encompasses a range of housing types allowing all residents to find suitable living space without spending a disproportionate percentage of their income. It can include ownership, rental or social housing.
Affordable Housing is defined by the Provincial Policy Statement as well as the City’s Official Plan as:
Affordable housing is a complex and multi-faceted issue. No single level of government or element is the cause or can be held responsible for the solution. It is all of our collective efforts that will generate results.
Housing is a basic and fundamental need. Access to safe, affordable and adequate housing promotes:
Housing is an essential factor for health and wellness. Research shows that people who experience stable, secure and affordable housing are better able to manage their health situations for positive outcomes. Though everyone experiences the same spectrum of illness, the severity and frequency of illness in people who are homeless is much higher. Stability and affordability of housing helps people maintain the level of care they need through the ability to purchase healthier foods, follow a prescribed diet, attend follow-up medical appointments and manage medications.
Having a home increases a resident’s opportunity to participate in the social and economic fabric of our community. Access to needed health and social services, ability to fully participate in the work force and even influence the decisions made by various levels of governments all become a possibility.
Affordable housing has a long-lasting impact on our city’s future success by building a strong foundation of education in our youth. Research shows a correlation between poor quality housing and the ability to focus at school, which has many negative impacts for children: increased stress, frequent absenteeism and lack of participation all lead to poor academic performance.
Affordable housing is closely linked to economic status. For instance, Barrie is a tourist destination with an abundance of winter and summer activities, making it an important source for economic stability. However, people working within this sector often earn minimum wage. Lack of affordable living options for people earning minimum wage puts our tourism and hospitality sector at risk.
Affordable housing affects more than the hospitality industry. Barrie is constantly aiming to diversify its labour market by introducing more industry and economic opportunity. Both labour and housing availability are key considerations in business location decisions. Businesses need a ready labour supply to function, yet there must be affordable housing options for labourers moving to work for that business.
Creating affordable housing for our citizens will foster a sense of personal and public safety. Spending too much of one’s income on housing means less money for basic needs like food and clothing. To make up for the shortfall, some people may turn to petty theft, public begging and even prostitution. More affordable housing options would minimize the risk of these broader social issues.
Affordable housing creates a more inclusive environment for everyone regardless of age, sex, income level, ability, socio/economic standing, family type or national origin.
The Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act, 2011 (formerly Bill 140) identified affordable housing as a matter of Provincial Interest. Although the County of Simcoe is the service provider for this region and has prepared a Housing and Homelessness Plan, local municipalities must play a role as well including initiatives such as amending their planning instruments to enlarge permissions for second suites and other forms of affordable housing in accordance with Provincial legislation and policy.
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