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“Red tape” stopping developers from building affordable housing

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The Town of New Tecumseth continues to struggle with a lack of affordable housing, although county-wide efforts are taking place to reduce the gap.

Simcoe County offers financial assistance to developers who build affordable housing units within its limits.

So far for New Tecumseth, only one developer has taken advantage of the county’s Social Infrastructure Fund (SIF), which offered property tax and development charges exemptions as incentives for a 20-unit development in Alliston, which was built in December of 2018.

“The rest of the developers, they didn’t participate,” noted Mayor Rick Milne. “They just said there was too much red tape.”

In addition to the onerous process involved in accessing government funding for affordable house, other developers were deterred because it wasn’t financially viable, as rent is set lower than market value and rent increases can only occur after a certain number of years.

Mayor Milne said Alliston based developer Previn Court Homes is interested in building an apartment in New Tecumseth and Council is encouraging them to include a section of affordable housing units.

“They’ve looked at the procedure, they’ve looked at the red tape that they have to go through, they haven’t made their mind up over there with going forward and taking advantage of the money from the County or not,” he told the Times. “It’s still in their hands.”

The Town of New Tecumseth attracts developers through its economic development committee and highlighting the statistics that show it’s the fourth safest place to live in Canada and ranked second in lowest taxes for Simcoe County, said the Mayor.

“We’re putting these positive messages out there, hoping that the developers will take advantage of that,” he said.

Mayor Milne addded the municipality itself doesn’t have money to give to the developers, but through programs offered by the County of Simcoe, the Town will help them secure government funding.

Other points of attraction for developers is that seven out of 10 of the largest industries in Simcoe County are located in Town.

But with less than five percent of the 5,000 employees at the Town’s Honda plant residing in New Tecumseth, Mayor Milne said there’s a strong need for more housing locally to accommodate its massive workforce.

“We need housing, period,” he stressed.

Mayor Milne noted that Alliston faces some of the greatest challenges for meeting the housing demand in New Tecumseth.

“I met with some real estate agents just the other day and they’re saying in just Alliston . . . there’s no products left to sell,” he said.

While Alliston’s population sits at roughly 20,000, Tottenham only has a little over 7,000 people, and Beeton sits just above 5,000.

With the larger population comes a larger need to meet the housing demand, Mayor Milne noted.

Meanwhile, an affordable rental housing development projects update was given to Simcoe County Council during it’s Committee of the Whole meeting last Tuesday.

Locally, the report highlighted the development in Alliston and under the County’s Long Term Financial Plan process, it said staff continue to review other properties and opportunities.

Looking ahead to ongoing construction in Simcoe County for affordable housing, there’s a 99-unit development that is set open next month in Wasaga.

Construction continues at the Victoria Harbour Development and is expected to finish in December of this year. The building will provide 41 affordable housing units.

The Barrie Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation is getting a fourth floor addition with 11 more affordable housing units and an anticipated occupancy in June 2020.

In Orillia construction is underway on the Building of Hope, which will offer 20 supportive housing units and 40 emergency beds. It’s scheduled to open in May 2021 and will offer homelessness services.

Looking back at what’s been built in the county over the last five years, well over 300 affordable housing units have been constructed and are in use.

Five buildings opened in Barrie from November 2015 to 2019, providing the city with 102 affordable housing units and 18 for supportive housing.

In Penetanguishene, one building opened in February of 2016 with 21 affordable housing units.

Tiny Township saw a building open in August 2018, offering four affordable housing units, while Innisfil began offering 55 units in March of 2019.

And in July of 2019 Midland opened a building offering a total of five supportive housing beds.

Affordable housing is tracked by the county as part of its progress under the 10-Year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy.

Going forward, Mayor Milne said he hopes more developers take advantage of Simcoe County’s financial incentives for affordable housing to help Town residents who are in need of a reasonably priced accommodations.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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