Launched at a public meeting on December 5, 2019, the Affordable and Rental Housing Community Improvement Plan provides a legal basis for the Town to subsidize housing. On Monday September 28, another Public meeting (chaired by Nicole Beatty) explained to Council and the public what was being proposed and asked for public feedback. The “in-person” audience was about a dozen but more would have watched proceedings via You-Tube streaming. Public meetings allow for citizens to support or oppose the idea but in this case, I counted seven presenters, all in favour. Nobody objected although as Keith Oliver pointed out, this is only a framework or pathway. Council has yet to approve it and allocate budget. Although subsidized housing is a County responsibility, the county expressed support of the idea in a letter to Council although their letter has not yet been made public.
During the summer (and still continuing), draft proposals were online at Engage Cobourg and public input was requested. But there is a statutory requirement for a public meeting and that’s what the Monday meeting was.
The meeting started with a presentation by the consultants – Dana Anderson and Kelly Martel, MHBC Planning – see links below for a copy of their presentation (the same as what’s online at Engage Cobourg).
Because of input from the public, the primary focus of support will be for “Purpose Built rental housing” and “second units” – that’s apartments added to existing houses. Here are the programs proposed for those.
|Purpose Built Rental Housing||– Rental Housing Planning and Building Fee Waiver Program
– Rental Housing Development Charge Grant Program
– Rental Housing Property Tax Grant Program
– Rental Housing Cash-in-Lieu of Parking Reduction Program
|Second Units||– Second Unit Planning and Building Fee Reduction Program
– Second Unit Renovation and Construction Grant Program
See the full presentation (link below) for more on lower priority areas.
Councillor Questions (highlights)
Councillor Emily Chorley asked “how much budget is required to meet the goal of 38 affordable units per year?” Director Glenn McGlashon replied that the 2020 budget was $125K and about $200K – $250K per year would be required.
Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin asked “where would be the best place to put funds?” The response was that second units would provide a “quick fix” but direct funding of rental units would be good too.
Suzanne also asked if taxes would increase on properties improved for second units. Ian Davey said that they would but the tax classification would remain residential (and not multi-units) so it would only be in proportion to the increased MPAC valuation. This takes account of project valuation as indicated on the building permit.
Councillor Beatty asked “How do we know that the applicant is using the unit for affordable Housing and not as an Airbnb unit?” The program would require an agreement with the town – e.g. for 10 years – and the program does include extensive monitoring. If the agreement is broken, the support money would have to be returned.
The County of Northumberland wrote a supportive letter that will be included in the public record of the meeting once it’s published.
Adam White made a presentation on Zoom but there was no sound on the streamed version so I have no report on this. A transcript will be included in the public record of the meeting once it’s published.
Meaghan Macdonald, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Northumberland and co-chair of Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee, was strongly supportive. She commented that the program was not just for affordable housing but also attainable and rental housing, She said there was a need across the housing continuum. Speaking for Habitat, she said that “we are really excited to see some creative housing solutions … including secondary suite development..”
Gigi Ludorf-Weaver was pleased with the program – particularly that it included sustainability as a goal even though that’s quite different to affordability. She praised the Town for its “culture of sustainability”.
Ben Burd made a number of points and made a suggestion. He asked “when will the grants pay for themselves?” and commented that relying on the private sector was risky. He asked “what happens when the building is sold? Is there a covenant on the deed?”
Noting that the CIP allows the town to provide surplus land (e.g. at Northam Park or Tannery land) and that Northam Park provides a healthy dividend, he suggested that the Town take on building affordable housing itself. He said that it has the land and the money “all it needs is the political will”. Ben commented that he doesn’t think the County is working hard at it or being efficient. However, he suggested that once the Town builds affordable units, they could be handed over to the County to administer.
Lew (I couldn’t catch his last name) said that he had just heard about the program but it would be great helping him with his plans to add a second unit to his house.
Keith Oliver said that the CIP is important and good but is only a framework or pathway. He asked “What’s next?”. He pointed out significant housing problems at a National level with a large number of questions. He suggested that Cobourg Council “take up a leadership role, and along with others, establish a Roundtable on Affordable Housing for All”. If Council doesn’t do this, who will?
No-one spoke in opposition.
The final version of the CIP will be presented at a Council Committee of the Whole meeting (no date yet), then at a Regular meeting for final approval. During the 2021 budget approval process, Council will approve (or not) funds for the program and, if funds are approved, individual projects would be approved during 2021. There was no comment from any Councilor on Ben’s or Keith’s suggestions.
- Affordable Housing CIPO presentation by MHBC Planning
- Affordable Housing Public Meeting – 8 Dec 2019