First Public All-Candidates Meeting

Sponsored by the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee, the first public all-candidates meeting this morning focused, as expected, on affordable housing.  There were about 80 people in the Salvation Army Hall – the early start time of 8:00 am may have kept numbers down.  All candidates except Emily Chorley were in attendance – Emily had a family commitment in Vancouver but did submit a statement via a representative. Although subsidized housing is the responsibility of the county, zoning and planning are a municipal responsibility and all candidates made it clear that they thought the Town should spend time and effort working on the problem which John Henderson called a crisis. The meeting started with all candidates providing their written responses to three questions asked by the organizers  – they were given 3 minutes for this.

All Candidates Meeting
All Candidates Meeting

Then there was a question period where audience members were invited to a microphone to ask any question. One minute was allowed to ask the question and each candidate had one minute to give an answer.  All the questions were in keeping with the theme of affordable housing so other issues did not get addressed.  However, the question period in particular was an opportunity to see how candidates could think on their feet.

But there were several points raised:

  • Zoning laws are important and should be reviewed – the Official Plan is also important;
  • Community improvement Plan (CIP) grants and Loans can be used to encourage development of living space above stores Downtown;
  • Other levels of Government have grants that should be used;
  • Partnerships would be helpful;
  • The Tannery property may be a location for development of affordable housing – it will be handled by the new council (see links below);
  • Affordable housing can be provided by Secondary Units such as the one recently approved on George Street;
  • The County needs to be pushed – the Town’s representative on County Council will be the Mayor, John Henderson.

The next Public Meeting is on October 10.  The format will use the “speed-dating” concept.  More at the Municipal election page – link below.

Note that the posts on Candidates Answers to Questions will resume tomorrow with “Open Q & A session – Should there be one at Council meetings?”

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Deborah OConnor

The best, and most hopeful response came from our new Mayor, John Henderson. In calling the lack of affordable housing a crisis, Mr. Henderson at least understands there is real urgency to solve it. Now what will he do about it? Let’s make this the last winter people have to sleep in the police station. We can do it, surely our “feel good town” includes everyone in it.

Small Town Lover

We have noticed an increase in people sleeping on benches or homeless looking people aimlessly roaming the downtown King St. West area lately. Have not seen this many people in obvious need before in Cobourg. I’m pretty sure there would be no such thing as affordable housing for them because I doubt they can even afford food. This homeless situation appears to be getting worse in Cobourg and I think this problem should be addressed.
Perhaps instead of trying to find ways of making Cobourg prettier with fancy garbage cans and making the waterfront more appealing to tourists , our feel good town could spend the money to help these people find a better life.

Bill Thompson

Today a man late morning lying sound asleep on a picnic bench in the Lion’s pavilion in Victoria Park with his meagre belongings.
In this day and age very sad to see a person totally unaware of my presence with a dog and living like this.

Small Town Lover

There are so many churches empty most of the week. Why don’t they open their doors for these people?

Ken Strauss

I attended the meeting and found all of the candidates to be generally knowledgeable about the problems and several presented some interesting ideas. Unfortunately many of the ideas involved getting taxpayers to fund things from another pocket — use Federal coffers instead of town or county. As part of that slight of hand Curtis repeatedly mentioned the Federal pot of gold as both $40 Billion and $40 Million. (According to https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/housing-national-benefit-1.4413615 the actual amount is $40B over 10 years.) This repeated slip of the tongue shows a flippant and shockingly poor appreciation of money exceeding typical family expenditures. Coming from a candidate for Deputy Mayor who hopes to be responsible for Cobourg’s budget this is worrisome!

Ben

The question put was whether a solution should come from the “free market” and give developers free rein and fewer constraints or whether “social housing” should be supported by Council. It is apparent that Cobourg has both of the tools needed to build or subsidise “social housing” – that being surplus land and a money flow from investments. So we know that affordable housing is not being built by developers and the alternative of “social housing” is viable in Cobourg.

The choice for a new Council is what to do with either of these choices. Mr Curtis is in support of Social Housing/low cost alternatives. We have the land, we have the money all that is missing is the political courage to get on with it!

Dubious

“We have the money”?

Cobourg property taxes are already unaffordable for many. It seems that the money from Northam has been allocated to pay for the new public works facility. Where is the money to come from?

Ben

If you look at the source of the public works facility just how much is being paid by “Northam”? There is still money left over to finance a debenture (mortgage at low cost that Municipalities use) to pay for whatever is needed for ‘social housing’! This is an ideological battle that the free marketeers will lose every time. Affordable housing can only be provided by lower input costs. Financing and land costs consume almost 50% of any new construction, take that away and housing is much cheaper. But it offends the ideologues that will tell you that government cannot run anything properly – step on down Mr Percolides.

As I said we have the money, we have the land and some of us have the political will. Get on with it or at least let Council make the decision to get involved or not!

Mrs. Anonymous

There is no doubt there is a housing issue here and almost every where else in Canada. However I think there is little we can do at the municipal or county level until issues further up the chain are addressed.

At the federal level, low interest rates causing rapid asset appreciation, speculation, higher immigration , and relatively unchecked foreign capital, and lax regulatory enforcement have all conspired to create an environment that creates high home prices. It’s most pronounced in the major cities, but as city people exit (retire) for the towns it places upwards pressure here on the real estate.

Locally, yes we could put regulation in place to limit whole home, non owner occupied, short term vacation rentals and probably build a few more affordable living spaces. However, until the federal issues get resolved, I don’t see this problem going away.