County Plans Expansion of Affordable Housing

Northumberland County has the responsibility of providing affordable housing and currently owns and operates 344 social housing units.  But there is a problem, the waitlist for RGI (Rent Geared to Income) housing is currently “nearly 700 households … in Cobourg”.  A newly developed Affordable Housing Strategy points to 4 goals and 44 actions to solve the problem and will be presented at the County Council meeting on March 20.  Also at that meeting, Council will be asked to approve a project to add 22 units to the existing 18 at their current Elgin Street property.  These duplex houses are now 50 years old so it’s proposed to re-develop the complex into higher density.  Because of the need to rezone and obtain financing, it will likely be a while before work starts.

Affordable Housing Strategy

See the links below for the Strategic Plan document and the presentation to County Council – both are long. This summary is a significantly abbreviated version.

Goals

Goal 1: Increase the supply of rental housing which is affordable to households with low and moderate incomes and achieve a functional zero end to homelessness.  23 Actions identified.
Goal 2: Expand the supply of housing with supports and support services in appropriate locations throughout Northumberland.  8 Actions identified.
Goal 3: Encourage and support the development of a diverse housing stock, including accessible housing options, smaller units, and options to facilitate aging in place, in all Northumberland communities. 9 Actions identified.
Goal 4: Ensure the entire housing stock is well-maintained and in good condition.  4 Actions identified.

Immediate Actions

Four actions are listed that require an immediate start since others depend on these:

  • 1.5. Work with member municipalities who currently have community improvement plans (CIPs) or who are developing CIPs to include programs to support the development of affordable and rental housing.
  • 1.12. Building on current initiatives, work with the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee (NAHC) to develop a YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) Team to take the lead in education and awareness initiatives.
  • 1.15. Create a Northumberland Affordable and Rental Housing Strategy Implementation Working Group to lead the implementation of all the recommended strategies. This Implementation Working Group should include representatives from each of the member municipalities.
  • 1.16. Develop an Implementation Plan, which includes an annual budget, to guide the implementation of the recommended actions in the Northumberland Affordable Housing Strategy.

As well as building new social housing units, the strategy includes

  • Encouraging add-on housing (“accessory Dwelling”) to existing homes and over stores etc.
  • Facilitate partnerships and collaborations with residential developers to build affordable and market-rate rental housing.

Targets

  • 90 units per year.  That is, 25% new affordable units out of a total of 360 units (of all kinds) created each year
  • 900 affordable units by 2029
  • 3,600 new units (of all kinds) by 2029

To help with all this, in 2019, the County says that they will “begin work to complete a Social Housing Master Plan and Northumberland County Housing Corporation (NCHC) Strategic Asset Management Plan”.

Elgin Street property

County's Elgin St Housing
County’s Elgin St Housing

At the south-east corner of D’Arcy and Elgin, the County has 9 duplexes with 4 two bedroom units, 8 three bedroom units and 6 four bedroom units (photo at right).

Over 180 households are on the current waitlist for Elgin Street units.  The re-development will maintain existing units and add 10 RGI units and 12 market rent units including 14 one bedroom units as identified as most needed in the waitlist.  When completed, there will be a series of alternating four and six-plex buildings.  Current tenants have been notified of the plan and how they might be impacted – none will lose their tenancy although as vacancies occur, they will not be replaced in the short term.  The project will require that the Town increase Zoning density from R3 to R4.

At the end of their memo about this project, there is a statement about impact to Member Municipalities which says:

Impacts to member municipalities at present are minimal, however as the project moves forward the County will be seeking the Town of Cobourg’s support for this project through incentives as per the forthcoming Affordable Housing Strategy.

Cobourg will need to rezone the property but perhaps they will also be asked for financial support.  Perhaps Cobourg needs a Community Improvement Plan for this location.

See also my recent post about Cobourg Housing where there are some numbers on vacancies and rental costs.  But it does look like the County is in fact working on resolving the shortage in rental and affordable housing.

Links

For more detail, read the documents in the following links – all pdfs.

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Stewey

By the looks of these posts, I believe that everyone should take some time to read the County staff report, which states that the proposal will maintain the existing unit breakdown of 18 RGI units, plus add 10 new RGI units, and 12 new market rent units within 100% of CMHC AMR or lower (net 22 new rental units), with a shared green space in the middle, to help satisfy the huge demand of those people currently on the list waiting for a decent place to live.

Miriam Mutton

Were you able to find the building condition reports? I could not locate that information. Adding to available home supply is a good thing but tearing down reparable buildings, sending them to land fill in order to achieve more units seems an odd thing to do. Especially when we are being educated to reuse, recycle and repair to reduce using up precious landfill space. Sure, intensify and add new units in between the existing buildings, possibly add additions to existing buildings; and, if needed, fix the homes for the families who already live there.
And, the Golden Plough Lodge will be torn down when the new GPL opens. How about a creative co-housing solution for the existing building frame? The existing building may not meet standards for a nursing home today but people live there now.

manfred s

just to expand the envelope of discussion a bit, I feel that the “non-profit” aspect contributes to the perpetuity of the low-income housing issue. While “profit” is so often seen to be a negative, profit is vital in situations where sustainability and maintenance are an essential part of the issue. Without profit, the resources needed for sustainability and maintenance have to perpetualy be sourced from ‘outside’ or ‘beyond’ the loop. When that diminishes through inevitable ebb and flow, serious compromises must be made and sustainability, and even maintenance, take the hit, with serious and sometimes long term negative consequences. Profit offsets this challenge. Low income should not be seen as a means to absolve anyone from contributing to the system that provides the necessities for living in an adequate and sustainable environment. Paying only enough to cover basic costs is not going to ensure the viability of the housing aspect of living with low or minimal income. Some personal investment in the provision of accommodation is important to the cycle of sustainability. It also allows for some personal dignity by contributing to the betterment of the housing effort. Paying an amount that generates SOME profit keeps the system operating perpetually,… Read more »

Deborah OConnor

Sorry Manfred but you missed the boat on this one. What you want to see is exactly how non-profits work; they plow income back into the project to maintain sustainability. When I lived in one of those duplexes I started off paying the established rental rate for a single parent on social assistance. When I left eight years later I was fully employed and paying full market rent – at a rate three and a half times greater than when I moved in.

The system worked perfectly for everyone: my family and the housing provider, as well as for the next family who got my unit. Let’s not mess with a system that works!

manfred s

I’m with you 100% Deb, if your own experience is typical rather than an exception. With my own good fortune in life, I’m not qualified to discuss or even understand the challenges associated with low income issues. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my own crisies at times, with only a single nickel in my bank account and pocket. One or two, other but related questions that I have, does the access to low rent have an impact on incentives to pursue improved circumstances for oneself, and, does achieving better circumstances then have an impact on access to lower rents? I can only wonder how that plays out. My own ignorance in this is a challenge to understanding the system as it is now.

Deborah OConnor

There are as many answers to your questions as there are low income earners. Like all the other groupings, each one is different, with different abilities and goals. (They all deserve decent, safe and affordable homes, whether they have what it takes to improve their lot in life or not).

If I dare to speak in generalities, I’d say that most low income earners are like everyone else; they simply need the opportunity to make the most of their life. Affordable and adequate housing does that.

manfred s

btw, Deb, isn’t that “income” actually profit realized on the rents collected? Non profit means no income, it seems, hence nothing left to reinvest. Where’s the error in my thinking here?

Ben

Non-profit has nothing to do with profit it is a term used to describe organisations that generate profit and use it for the organisation’s purpose, as opposed to the owner’s pocketing it. The wonders of the English language!

Bryan

Ben, It is not so much a wonder of the English language as it is the somewhat arcane terminology used in accounting and law. Non-profit means that there are no beneficial owners (shareholders) to “pocket” the “profits”. As you and Manfred have correctly stated, the net income (profit, surplus) is used for the organization’s purposes. In the context of a housing organization, profit (net of revenue less operating expenses) is necessary to fund the organizations non-operational needs. The three main ones are: debt repayment, capital (major) repairs and additions (expansion).

Deborah OConnor

Do you only see comments from men? If you looked you would see it was me who first explained the difference between for-profits and non- profits, not Ben and not Manfred, who didn’t understand how non-profits worked and asked for clarification.

Wake up, Bryan, women are now allowed to participate and contribute to discussions. It’s the 21st century!

Dubious

Why are you certain that “Bryan” is male?

Bryan

As it happens, the the specific comments that I commented on were posted by men. I don’t read your comments because past experience indicates that you are prone to making erroneous unsubstantiated assumptions which degrade the value of your comments. There are other commenters (male & female) that I also don’t read, for the same reason.
Case in point:
– you assumed that I read your comment and therefore made a choice to not recognize your contribution….wrong
– you assumed that I didn’t recognize your contribution due to gender bias….wrong again

Ben

“I don’t read your comments because past experience indicates that you are prone to making erroneous unsubstantiated assumptions which degrade the value of your comments. There are other commenters (male & female) that I also don’t read, for the same reason.”

So much for an open mind then Bryan, I assume that you also give thumbs up/down based on your guesses of who the writers are?

Sad!

manfred s

Ben, I think it’s safe to say we all have our supporters and detractors, all of whom have made their determinations based on their own criteria. There comes a point where we have a pretty good idea of what someone brings to the discussion table, based on their past performance and contributions. I’d say Bryan has simply made some of those determinations and chooses to ignore certain commenters whom ‘he’ believes to have little of value, TO HIM, to consider.
btw, maybe Bryan doesn’t utilize the thumb vote feature at all. That he does is simply YOUR assumption, be it correct or otherwise.

Wally Keeler

I was on the Capital Planning Committee, Finance Committee, Membership Committee and BofD of Alexandra Park Housing Co-operative, Toronto. It had a million budget when I left 12 years ago. It was non-profit. Included in the monthly housing charge was an amount that kept our capital reserves well supplied in the event of a need to avoid a catastrophic event, eg,foundation repair, big ticket item. In this instance, people who lived in the Coop were “owners” of the Co-op.

Walter L. Luedtke

Northumberland Housing seems to be working with an experienced – uh oh! – consulting firm, SHS Consulting on the Elgin Street project.
“SHS Consulting is actively involved in the development of affordable housing projects for a wide range of population groups including seniors, families, and persons with disabilities.
Including our predecessor firms, we have managed the development of almost 100 projects containing over 5,000 units and housing more than 10,000 persons in need of affordable housing.
These projects have ranged in size from a three unit transitional housing project for victims of domestic violence to major projects of 350 units serving a diverse group of residents.
This work is carried out on behalf of municipal and private non-profit housing corporations, private sector developers and public/private partnerships.
SHS has developed projects in every corner of Ontario, including major urban centres, small rural communities and remote northern communities.”
Time will tell as we get as we get more details.

Walter L. Luedtke

Northumberland County Housing Authority should be congratulated for developing an Affordable Housing Strategy to meet a crying need.
However, nothing with public housing is simple.
While it is not helpful to label the Elgin Street enclave a ‘ghetto’, Ms OConnor’s points are well-taken.
But where would a new spacious public housing complex go?
Judging by the outcries over converting 395 College Street from 2 to 5 ‘market’ apartments, over having a French language school in New Amherst and over the Palisade senior’s residence, finding a location for for 22 new public housing units is a daunting task.
I am not sure whether any established Cobourg neighborhood would welcome public housing on its leafy streets.
Nor am I sure that a public meeting would come up with an answer.

Deborah OConnor

This is an appalling decision – adding on to the Elgin Street duplexes. My kids and I lived in one of these duplexes for 8 years and I know that row very well. The only way any additions or new structures can be added is to destroy tenants’ back yards completely!

What a terrible idea, cramming more people onto this row while removing treasured family play space. With the front yards facing a busy and congested major County road through town (Elgin Street), that is hardly a safe place for kids to play, and it’s too noisy with traffic for adults to enjoy.

What pencil pusher dreamed up this fiasco? They certainly haven’t given any consideration to their tenants’ well being.

cornbread

When I was a kid, we all went over to the local school yard and played our games…Are there not any school yards close to D’Arcy & Elgin???

Ben

Hmm I guess this is the answer sought from another post. It is absolutely natural that the County, in its position as an organisation that builds empires and sucks all the energy from other organisations doing the same things, has done it again.

This time the result will be an extension of a large population of low income housing which will further perpetuate the impression of a “ghetto”. Low income housing will only be successful in mixed market situations not large concentrations.

There are other plots of land available pity the County has chosen this one, in my view a highly unsuitable place for more low income housing and cannot be justified just because they can squeeze in more units on the land they own.

Kudos should go to the County for trying but as usual are trying to convince the public this is a good move when all the plans are in place, it appears that public consultation and the County is an oxymoron.

Frenchy

This time the result will be an extension of a large population of low income housing which will further perpetuate the impression of a “ghetto”. Low income housing will only be successful in mixed market situations not large concentrations.

I’m not disagreeing with your concerns and I’m not defending the County’s decision, and I’m all for more housing and more affordable housing, but I’m having trouble understanding this part of your argument. Isn’t adding more low income housing as an extension of an already low income housing area exactly what THCC is proposing to do at their James Street location?

From the THCC proposal:
“To be built on same parcel of land as existing 20 unit affordable housing project”

Albert

From Ben’s earlier post:
“Let’s have an answer on Trinity Housing’s application first personally I would have no problem Supporting THC over what appears to be a ‘carpetbagger’!”
I am confused too. The ‘carpet bagger’ is Balder Corporation which is proposing a mixture of affordable and ‘market’ units.

Miriam Mutton

I believe the THCC proposal is for a new building on vacant land adjacent the existing building where there used to be single house and parking.

I have not seen the County’s plans but could two or three storey buildings inserted between existing townhouse buildings work? This would make a continuous line of building (separated by fire walls) and with varying frontage depth. Backyards would remain intact.

I do agree with other posters who suggest affordable housing needs to be mixed into neighbourhoods and not targeted to be concentrated in a few neighbourhoods only.

Deborah OConnor

You are most likely right, Miriam, about adding housing between the nine buildings. It’s the answer my son came up with last night too. Better than destroying the backyards. With two driveways that extend to the back of the units and space in between those, there is room to build.

In 1989 the Help Centre began working with the residents of the D’arcy/Elgin neighbourhood. We got a group of parents together and helped them organize school parties and info fairs. We ran a summer art program for kids and brought facilitators in to run parenting programs for the adults. We wrote a song about living there called “The Far Side of the Tracks”.

Even then some people called our neighbourhood the “White Ghetto”. Why the CCC isn’t gearing programming to attract local lower-income families and provide some learning and socializing opportunities is a lost opportunity for the Town to start meeting citizens’ needs.

More ill-advised densification isn’t going to help, that’s for sure.

Deborah OConnor

Now this article that states the duplexes are to be demolished!
We need the FACTS!
https://northumberland897.ca/news/2019/3/21/cobourg-redevelopment-will-more-than-double-housing-capacity