County working towards meeting housing needs
Norfolk council has taken the first steps toward meeting the housing needs of all the county’s residents.
At a meeting on Tuesday, council agreed to an official plan amendment that is meant to encourage an adequate and appropriate supply of housing and increase the supply of affordable housing.
A housing study released last October determined that the majority of dwellings in Norfolk are single detached homes.
It also determined the vacancy rates and affordable housing wait lists suggest there is a need for more rental housing options in the county, particularly units for smaller households; and that waiting lists and occupancy rates show there is a great need for affordable housing, including units with supports for the aging population.
Recommendations in the housing study were made for policy change and further housing actions and activities.
The official plan amendment will:
* Support official plan policies to provide a diverse range of housing options by adopting a target that 15 per cent of all new housing built in Norfolk County be multi-residential dwellings and 15 per cent be semi-detached and townhouse dwellings.
* Revise official plan policy to state that the county shall target 25 per cent of all new housing to be affordable to low and moderate income households and that at least 10 per cent of all new units be affordable to the lowest income households.
* Support an official plan policy by developing a rental conversion policy to protect existing rental housing, particularly affordable units, in Norfolk County.
* Remove official plan policy which requires separation distances between group homes in order to be in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“These amendments to the Norfolk County Official Plan will update current policy and assist in the achievement of the Housing Strategy Goals,” said a report prepared by Mary Elder, principal planner for the county.
“As the population changes, we need to ensure there is a full range of housing types.”
The housing study determined that Norfolk’s population is aging faster than the rest of the province. The population aged 45 to 64 grew by 28.3 per cent from 2001 to 2011, and the population aged 65 and over grew by 16.3 per cent from 2001 to 2011.
At the same time, the population up to age 44 decreased by 12.8 per cent.
Tricia Givens, supervisor of housing services, said many seniors on fixed incomes are living in homes they can’t afford.
Elder said Norfolk hasn’t been meeting its target for diverse types of housing and for affordable housing, with an estimated 80 per cent of new development being made up of single-family homes.
When asked by Coun. Jim Oliver if Norfolk’s neighbouring communities had similar targets, Elder said Brant, Brantford, and Haldimand had more aggressive targets they are required to meet under the Ontario government’s Places to Grow program.
Councillors Doug Brunton and Noel Haydt said they were concerned the increased targets for mixed housing and affordable housing could scare off some developers and “handcuff” new builds.
When asked by Coun. Michael Columbus, Givens said there are no penalties for not meeting housing targets, but progressive developers are aware of the standards in place elsewhere and work toward them.
“I meet with some developers who just want to do affordable housing,” said Givens.
She said new incentives will soon be introduced to make it more attractive for builders to construct a mix of housing.
Givens said there is also a need to protect existing rental stock in the county.
On average, a person is waiting eight years or more in Simcoe for a geared-to-income, one-bedroom unit.
Givens said one-third of the people on the wait list are seniors.
-- Brantford Expositor