City council receives initial affordable housing improvement plan

Sarnia City Council is now aware of the challenges facing the homebuilding industry as it has an affordable housing community improvement plan at hand.

Tim Welch of Tim Welch Consulting Inc. said there was not enough land, it was difficult to get grants to manage development projects, and there was no seed money to manage early construction costs.

“So, on a preliminary basis, some of the proposals that we’re looking at, and we hope to put forward more formally in a subsequent report to council, is that there be a definition of affordability, in line with Bill 23’s The current provincial definition of , the Faster Build Act, is 80 per cent of the average market rent,” Welch said.

He also proposed implementing a property tax increment subsidy program.

“This would mean that property taxes on locations where new affordable housing is developed will not increase property taxes. But any relief on property taxes paid will be tied to the percentage of affordable units created by the project,” he said.

Welch said the tax increase plan would be tied to federal and provincial agreements.

“As long as housing continues to be affordable and defined, tax increase financing can continue,” Welch said.

He suggested various grants to cover city fees or add additional accessory units, citing the example of converting a single-family home into a duplex.

Councilor Brian White said he “echoed a resounding voice” that the concept of affordable housing, landing at 80 per cent of market rent, is simply unaffordable for many.

“As the market continues to drive up rates on rental costs, those rates will continue to be out of reach for many people who would otherwise benefit from something like this,” White said.

Assemblyman Adam Kilner hopes to coordinate the recommendations with Lambton County and community groups providing assistance.

A survey conducted by the consultant found that 93% of respondents felt there was a shortage of affordable housing in Sarnia.

Accessible housing for singles, the homeless, and those in need of mental health or addiction support was identified as the highest need.

The adviser hopes to hold a public meeting in May or June before the plan is considered for adoption by the end of July.

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