Cobourg and Social Services

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

Christine Pacini
Christine Pacini

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.

Statistics

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.

Actions

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.

Living Wage

Councillor Nicole Beatty
Councillor Nicole Beatty

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.

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michal Hasek

Any idea why, when a report is requested from staff they require 3 months to consider it, yet when staff wants a contract ratified by council they give them 90 minutes to consider it? Just asking.

Lois Lane

I am confused as to why only rent-geared-to-income is mentioned. To qualify one’s household income must not exceed a ceiling of approximately $2600. per month – income from all sources. This disqualifies a large number of people who are paying well above the 30% rent asked of today. It also ensures with the rental rates currently charged there are many who can never move from their rental units as since 2013 rents have skyrocketed yet they would not qualify for rent-geared-to-income. I had thought units were being constructed for a broader spectrum of incomes and below the outrageous amounts being asked today. Toronto currently has the Fair Wage Act and deals with a small select group of unionized contractors despite being taxpayer funded. Why would Cobourg wish to adopt this practice? As we all read Toronto is constantly asking for handouts which are short of their expenses based on their extraordinary spending. Perhaps Tim Horton’s could ask for a government subsidy and others that employ so many in this region. Should they pay $17.95 an hour you can bet people with the necessary prices charged then for coffee would make it at home. Hence no more Timmy’s.

Frenchy

“Councillor Emily Chorley pointed out that for the Town, only students and Councillors would be affected and that others are well paid.”
Sounds like Clrs Chorley and Beatty want to lay the ground work for another big raise. More than the 1.9% budget increase target Deputy Mayor?

michal Hasek

When was the last time that councillors saw a raise? Who else would take on the work they do for the nickel and dimes we pay them? Their salaries are probably .003% of the county/town’s salary budget, less than the janitors?

Frenchy

They got a 32% raise in May of this year and are now looking for a 46% raise next year.
“Who else would take on the work they do?” There were 5 others who wanted a position on council.

Fact Checker

Frenchy,
I believe the increase in May was approved pending 2020 budget approval which hasn’t yet happened. So there is no extra cash in their pay packet currently.

Frenchy

Fact Checker, I checked my facts, and…
I believe that last September the old council voted a 32% raise for the new council elected last October (pay raise took effect January 1, 2019 not May as I previously stated).
In September of this year council voted themselves a 46% raise (pending budget approval) to take effect January1, 2020.
https://www.cobourgblog.com/news-2019/surprise-council-reversal-re-salary-increase/
and
https://www.cobourgblog.com/news-2019/councillor-pay-increases-back-on-the-table/
A little higher than the 1.9% increase our Deputy Mayor wants everyone else to adhere to. Nothing like leading by example.😉

Fact Checker

Frenchy,
Thanks for your update and providing additional information.
I believe the 1.9% guideline applies to the individual department total and not to the individual line items.

Frenchy

Either way, that 1.9% ceiling is going to be hard to meet with a 46% (pending) line increase in that department’s budget. How does the Deputy Mayor say no to Director Hustwick’s requests?
Do as I say, not as I do?🐷

perplexed

And for those with out work , to old , or with health issues where might the living wage
come in If the real cost of living increases were to be looked at from a Realistic point of view and the demographic if our geared to income residents by age bracket
I believe you will find that there are a lot of people forgotten by the system .
Again there has not been a real increase in any of the government programs like CPP OAS for the aged or ODSP for the sick in over 15 yrs Even these rents suggested
are to high based on what many receive which is around $1200,– per month total