Despite the pandemic and the difficulty of getting public input, the Town of Cobourg is continuing with a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to assist with providing affordable housing. Initiated in the Fall of 2019 and originally scheduled for completion in May 2020, draft recommendations were submitted to the Planning and Development Advisory committee on June 16. It’s about process and not the budget to be allocated. Once in place, it will permit the Town to spend money assisting developers with grants and loans for development charges, application fees and/or property tax reductions. This is despite that fact that the County is primarily responsible for the provision of affordable housing. No timetable has been set for completion of the study by the consultant but it was originally hoped that it would be in time for 2021 budget deliberations.
When the project was first proposed, it got a lot of attention but it has faded into the background somewhat. In September 2019, an affordable housing building was opened at 86 Munroe Street – photo at right. Nevertheless, the problem has not gone away and the CIP will likely be approved by Council this summer and spending amounts will no doubt be proposed for 2021. Approval of the program would only approve the process, not any spending. Council would then have to allocate a budget amount for small projects; large projects would come to council for individual approval.
Re-Cap: Why a new CIP for Cobourg?
The consultant’s presentation says that “increasing the supply of affordable and rental housing was identified by Council for a number of reasons:
- Opportunity to diversify Town’s housing stock
- Cobourg has a very low rental vacancy rate (average 0.04%), even reaching 0.0% for bachelor and 3-bedroom units
- Average market rents are among the highest in Northumberland County (average $1,051)
- Households who rent tend to have lower incomes than households who own
- Affordable and rental housing identified as a key issue at both the local and County level”
Based on public input received in a January open house, the objective of helping affordable housing has been prioritized into two “focus areas”:
- Increasing the supply of purpose-built rental housing
- Promoting the development of second units [e.g. coach houses]
Thirteen separate programs are proposed – see the executive summary in the links below – but for the two focus areas, these can be summarized:
|Purpose Built Rental Housing||
The “presentation” provides more detail but a typical grant would be 50% of costs with $10K limits. These would be approved by the planning department with a limit per the approved budget. Larger projects with larger amounts would come to Council for approval on a case by case basis.
Another “public meeting” is required but no date has been set – it would likely have to be virtual. Stay tuned.