The County has prime responsibility for providing social services and that includes affordable housing. At Monday’s Council meeting, Christine Pacini of SHS Consulting presented a report on the County’s Affordable Housing strategy as it affected Cobourg. She provided definitions of what is considered affordable and how incentives can help. She briefly mentioned the County’s current project on Elgin Street (see link below) and supported the Town’s plan to provide incentives via a Town Wide Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for affordable housing. This will be launched at a public meeting on December 5 – details below. At the same meeting, Kristina Nairn of the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) asked that Council consider being certified as a “living Wage Employer” – that would mean that Cobourg and its contractors would have $17.95/hour as their minimum wage.
Definition of Affordable Housing
The definition used is: for the lowest 60% of Household incomes (lowest 6 deciles), the cost of rent must not exceed 30% of income. For Northumberland, that is $1019 rent or $316,190 for ownership.
For Cobourg, 26.4% of households spend more than 30% on housing costs and 10.5% spend more than 50%.
Cobourg has 285 RGI (Rent Geared to Income) units, 23 rent supplement units, 47 IAH (Investment in Affordable Housing) units but the wait for these units is up to 9 years and the supply of RGI units has been static since the 1990’s.
Christine listed 28 actions but emphasized six of them; four of these start with the words “Work with the County…” They included using the CIP currently being developed plus changes to Zoning, the Official Plan, regulations and policies. The target for new affordable housing units for Northumberland is 90 units/year and 38/year for Cobourg.
With a series of graphics, Christine showed that incentives from both the Town and other Governments could reduce the rent required to make a project profitable for developers. The example she used was a 50 unit low rise building. However one debatable “incentive” is the provision of land by the Town – estimated at $379K. [As an aside, the 71 unit Balder Corp project at 311-325 University Avenue West received site-plan approval at the same Council meeting]. Note that local incentives are important since this allows the developer to apply for funding from senior levels of government.
The living wage rate of $17.95/hour is calculated based on the local cost of living for two parents working full-time with two children to support (see graphic in link below). The idea is that the Town should start with a commitment to pay no less than this for employees with contractors bound to the same requirement. Long term it could spread to the Town generally. Councillor Emily Chorley pointed out that for the Town, only students and Councillors would be affected and that others are well paid. (Kristina confirmed that students would be exempt). Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin said that it would be premature and not appropriate – only Cambridge has done this so far. But Councillor Nicole Beatty moved a motion that staff report back on the feasibility and impact on the Town and with the report due March 9, 2020. Councillor Brian Darling supported the motion with the comment that the report does not have to be implemented. The motion passed.
- County Plans expansion of Affordable Housing – 18 March 2019
- Town of Cobourg Affordable Housing Strategy (SHS Report)
- CIP for Affordable Housing in Cobourg – 11 September 2019
- Project Launch Event – List of Town public Meetings – Affordable and Rental Housing Community Improvement Plan
- Living Wage Northumberland County – Download pdf graphic from Cobourg Portal
- Council approves re-zoning for Balder Corp Development – 3 July 2019