Council Acts on Affordable Housing

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 1st, Council was asked to approve support for both the Balder Corporation Proposal and the Trinity Housing Proposal – both of which were behind Nicole Beatty’s initiative to add $250,000 to the Town’s 2019 budget for affordable housing projects.  Staff provided a 28 page memo outlining measures that could be taken to provide support.  One of these is the creation of a Townwide Community Improvement Plan to allow certain incentives to be provided and another is additional staff to implement a “new housing program”.  Staff suggested actions that would cost $360K in addition to a shortfall in revenue of $52K.  Most of this would go towards the Trinity Housing project.  At the meeting, Balder made a presentation but Trinity did not.

Balder’s Presentation

Balder Delegation
Balder Delegation

There were two presenters, a representative of Balder Corporation and Cornerstone Executive Director Nancy Johnston.  The first point made was that although Balder is a “for profit corporation”, dedicated rental housing construction has not been viable without Government support and the Balder project only exists because of Federal Government support. This makes it a Private/Public Project.  It was also emphasized that a key Federal Government requirement is support from a second level of Government.  Unfortunately, the Provincial Government is not providing support so that leaves Municipalities.  It was said that 13 units will be classified as “affordable”. Nancy then made the point that Cornerstone is struggling because of low turnover which in turn is caused by lack of affordable rental housing.  She therefore supports this project.

In response to a question, it was stated that Balder’s project will have a commitment to keep units affordable for 10 years but they are open to extending that period.

The presentation says that the project will have 14 Studio units, 15 one bedroom units, 23 one Bedroom and Den units, 8 two Bedroom units and 5 2 Bedroom and Den units. Balder stated that “thirteen units, namely all the studio and some of the one bedroom units, will be designated as affordable“.  Note that it’s not clear if all the info in the presentation is applicable since not all the slides were used.  See link below for more details of the Balder Project.  

Council Decision

In line with Staff recommendations, Nicole moved that:

Council provide Affordable Housing Assistance to Balder Corporation for 315-325 University Avenue West and Trinity Housing Corporation for 25 James Street in the following manner:

Balder Corporation:

  • Streamline Approval Process;
  • Deferral of Development Charges for Ten Years; and
  • Issue a letter stating Council’s intention to implement a CIP and consider Balder’s request for further support  (per Balder’s request for a third supporting item).

Trinity Housing Corporation:

  • Streamlined development approvals process;
  • Development Charges Grant of 50% or $111,360;
  • Deferral of the balance of Development Charges in the amount of $111,360 for Five Years;
  • Grant equal to 100% of the increase in the Town’s portion of property taxes for ten years (TIEG) with an estimated total net present value of $179,500;
  • Assistance with securing County of Northumberland grant equal to the increase of property taxes for ten years (TIEG);
  • Guarantee of Loan for $330,000.

Further that a CIP plan be prepared (cost $65K), that by-laws be amended to “accommodate new, non-profit affordable housing projects”, that legal Counsel be engaged (estimated $5K) and that funds come from the 2019 budget ($250,000) and $110,860 come from the 2020-2022 budget.

This would be presented to Council for consideration (approval) at the 13 May Committee of the Whole Meeting.

Although the motion included a requirement to collaborate with the County, John Henderson was concerned that they might “trump” Cobourg and delay or stop the process but CAO Stephen Peacock gave assurances that the Town could proceed independently.  John also commented that the elected Councillors showed that they had listened to their electors.  At this point there was loud applause from the gallery.  They further applauded when Council passed the motion unanimously.

It seems clear that these projects are going ahead – or at least will get all the support from Council that they have asked for.

Links

Update

At the regular Council meeting on April 8, Council passed motions to proceed per the above.

Update 14 June 2019

The Public meeting to review the re-zoning for this project will be on July 2 at 5:00 pm in Council Chambers.

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Keith Oliver

Walter, I’m new to Draper’s blogs. Your ratings by others are always so high. Have you ever thought of becoming a Saint?

Walter L. Luedtke

Hi Keith!
Bought a halo on Amazon!

Mrs. Anonymous

If we are to continue and expand the use of CIPs for profit making/commercial business, I would like to suggest that the town make any recipient of the funding dispaplay a donor recognition sign in a prominent place thanking the people of Cobourg for financial assistance.

In that way, the people that support the use of CIPs can support those businesses and those who do not can avoid them.

Deborah OConnor

So congratulations to Town Council for acknowledging we have a crisis in available low cost rental housing, and taking some small steps to provide more. It’s a start, and lets not forget they need to do some serious lobbying to the provincial and federal governments, whose past decisions have directly caused this crisis. The County needs to add its voice to this effort, along with AMO (Association of Municipalities Ontario) and FCM (Federation of Caadian Municipalities). Nothing less will suffice.

Ben

If you voted thumbs down on this post I would love to know why, bet you don’t have cajones to say why!!

Walter L. Luedtke

Hats off to Councillor Beatty and Council for coming to grips with this problem. An Affordable Housing CIP is a great step in that direction. “The Affordable Housing CIP was approved by Council on July 10, 2018 and provides incentive-based programs for the creation of affordable housing. The purpose of the AHCIP is to facilitate the development of more affordable housing units in location where they will benefit from proximity to public and private facilities and services as well as maximize the use of existing infrastructure.” City of Greater Sudbury The City of Peterborough Affordable Housing CIP has these components: Incentive Program – This program will waive municipal fees such as planning application fees, parkland fees, and cash-in-lieu of parking fees for affordable housing projects. Development Charges Program – This program will waive the payment of development charges for any new affordable housing units (subject to available funding). Tax Increment Grant Program – An annual grant to property owners will reimburse a portion of the municipal property tax increase resulting from increased assessment. The program would be implemented over a period of 9 years. For the first 5 years the grant would be equivalent to 100% of the municipal tax… Read more »

Ben

Hmm, with regard to the Balder project, it is stated that the ‘affordable units’ – Balder stated that “thirteen units, namely all the studio and some of the one bedroom units, will be designated as affordable“. What definition of ‘affordable’ is going to be used, we know that CHMC – “80% of average market rent” is not affordable to those in the most need?

This raises an interesting social question – just who will be the vetting agency for the potential renter? If the idea is to alleviate the homeless problem and the best way to do that is to house them in their own units then who selects the renters and what criteria will be used? After all some of the homeless need a lot more social supports than others. How will the ‘market’ renters in the other units (54) regard these former homeless and the social stigmas attached?

Just wondering if the hardcore homeless – the presence of which have attracted comments on this page will ever get housed?

Walter L. Luedtke

Affordable housing for low income families and for the homeless are two quite distinct problem areas. “Affordable housing targets people who earn 50% to 60% of the Area Median Income. Deeply affordable housing targets people earning just 25%-35% of Area Median Income.” That is one definition of the difference. The recent Dixon Hall report on homelessness in Toronto recommends the following: “Make the creation of “deeply affordable” housing stock a priority. Invest in what it calls “supportive housing” to help people move out of the shelter system. Fund and champion front-line workers who work with homeless people to find housing. Create opportunities for homeless people to engage with the larger community and these opportunities could include peer workshops, skills development and support in finding work. Make program decisions in collaboration with “people with lived experience.” Ensure there is a continuity of services for homeless people who access the city’s shelter, respite and Out of the Cold programs.” Housing the homeless calls for extensive social programs that are out of reach for developers. Those services are provided by Northumberland County. Their Affordable Housing Strategy includes: Emergency Shelters – These provide short-term accommodation (usually 30 days or less) for individuals and families… Read more »

Ben

So Walter it appears until we are told otherwise that Mr Balder will only be paying lipservice to the problem and skimming the “good” homeless!

Walter L. Luedtke

Hi Ben! I share your concerns about homelessness in our area.
Balder’s presentations do not specifically address a homeless population, but rather low income affordable housing.
However, Balder have partnered with Cornerstone to work towards “sustainable housing”.
Cornerstone director, Nancy Johnstone, had this to say:
“… I cannot help think about the impact this project would have on Cornerstone and our clients.
As a community partner of Balder Corp. our clients would have first right of refusal to available affordable housing units; this would allow our clients the opportunity to be housed safely and affordably.”
Work in progress.
Hopefully!

Ben

OK if Cornerstone is going to have first right of refusal let’s call it “Cornerstone outreach” not affordable housing available to any of the 900 families on the wait list. I would guess that some Cornerstone clients may not even be on the waitlist. Even more restrictive than screening the homeless.

michal Hasek

Thank you councillors and Mayor Henderson. Unanimous approval was satisfying. It would be so much easier to sit on your hands and throw up objections. The lack of rental housing is a catastrophe and you have taken a first step towards a solution. Congratulations! What a heads up group of folks we have elected on to council. What a monumental job, Nichole, Emily, Adam, Aaron, Brian with Deputy Mayor Suzanne quarterbacked by John. I hope you all patted yourselves on the back. Along with a highly competent, hard working staff this town has a team that ROCKS! and cares. Huge job well done!

Keith Oliver

To me the real issue is not so much “affordable housing” but “housing that is affordable to all”. It’s become clear that the free market system in which supply usually is increased by demand has failed and that government participation will continue to be necessary until the reasons for the failure can be understood, addresses and solved. It’s also worth noting that Article 25 of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, (drafted primarily by Canadian John Humphrey) declares housing to be a human right. At Monday’s Council meeting it was clear that both Council members and Staff had worked hard to make these two projects involving approx 90 rental units possible at minimum cost to the Town … but is this sustainable? … As the cost of buying a home in Cobourg escalates, as it is now doing, result will be an even greater need for “housing affordable to all!”. When I was growing up during the 1940s and 50s, the cost of housing remained stable and affordable. My parents rented until buying a house after my father’s retirement. What’s changed?

Gigi

Great development for affordable housing initiative that I believe was one of the campaign items for Nicole. My concern is that the manner and materials used and disposed of include a Sustainability perspective: also meaning that ‘passivhouse’ principles need to be considered when thinking ‘affordability’ for heating and cooling! The presence of trees, for carbon sequestering, permeable concrete at the end of driveways for water runoffs(rain/ snow) returning to the ground and not literally ‘running off’! Affordability should not just have a social and economic dimension but also an environmental one!

gerinator

No quarrel with the intention and desired outcome of Councilor Beatty motion. BUT why not just leave CIP alone as it stands and come up with a new, specific by-law dealing with “accommodate new, non-profit affordable housing projects”? This changes (i.e. muddies) virtually everything that is important about the CIP process: Determination(s) of the viability of the investment, CIP mandate, success indicators for CIP, measurability of the successes and failures, reporting. Perhaps a CIP-like process could be implemented but leave the current one alone.

John Draper

Several people said that a CIP was needed to legally allow the additional benefits proposed.

gerinator

Thanks John. I can’t say I understand the ‘legally allow’ component of this. Surely another legal CIP can be created to capture/allow the benefits proposed. Oh well.

Stewey

Reading the lengthy staff report makes it very clear that a CIP is exempt from the Municipal Act prohibition on municipal bonusing by way of grants, loans and fees.to commercial, for-profit corporations. The report link is not shown above but check it out on the Council agenda at “www.cobourg.ca”

Bryan

As you point out, grants/loans made through a CIP seems to be free of the sect 106 restrictions. You state that sect 106 prohibits “municipal bonusing by way of grants, loans and fees.to commercial, for-profit corporations”. This is partly correct. Sect 106 prohibitions are not a function of the legal form of the organization. This section makes no mention of “corporations”, for-profit, non-profit or otherwise. It specifically refers to manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise. The legal form of the business or enterprise is not specified. It could be a corporation (for-profit or non-profit), a partnership or a proprietorship. About 2 years ago, the NMAI (a non-profit corporation engaged in commercial property leasing) applied for a $325K development fee waiver. After initial Council approval (5:2) at a committee of the whole meeting, Council, in response to public pushback did further due diligence, including obtaining a 2nd legal opinion. Council subesquently denied (6:1) the waiver request. Assistance prohibited 106 (1) Despite any Act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose. 2001, c. 25, s. 106 (1). Same (2) Without limiting subsection… Read more »

Miriam Mutton

Bryan,
Not sure what the implications are … does it mean that a town wide CIP designation enables Council to provide funding or other forms of financial relief to any form of development ask?

Bryan

Excellent question and should be answered of the CAO and those working on the “affordable housing” issue. A way forward around sect 106 seems to have been found. But what are the “unintended” consequences of this.
As you ask, does this open the Town to all manner of subsidized commercial activity and requests. Once the precedent is set, it is hard to walk it back. Council needs to give due consideration to the overall consequences and put safeguards/limits in place as needed.

Stewey

Council has approved grants and loans for private commercial businesses in the downtown CIP so I would hazard a guess and say yes.if it is for the intended purpose of providing affordable housing by any sector